LONDON - Former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who is due to fly into Lahore on Friday to face a charged situation, says he is proud that fate bestowed on him the singular honour of working for people’s right to rule. He said he is going to jail for the sake of asking for respect of the vote, not for any corruption.

In an exclusive interview to daily Nawaiwaqt and The Nation – his first to any media group after an accountability court’s decision against him in Avenfield reference – he said he may live to regret throughout his life, that before leaving for Pakistan he could not talk to his wife – Begum Kulsoom - and she could not see him standing by her bedside.

He recalled how Pakistan stood isolated at international level because of the Kargil adventure during General Musharraf’s period as Army Chief.  He said at the time, even a close friend like China had said in plain terms that it could not support Pakistan’s move. However, Mr Sharif said he desisted from taking any action against Gen Musharraf, although this restraint did not bring about any positive results.

The ex-premier said that when Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s sit-in in Islamabad was underway in 2014, “I received a phone call that somebody wants to meet me immediately. However, I showed reluctance after I was informed that somebody wants to convey me an urgent message from the then ISI DG  Zaheerul Islam. The man came at night with Gen Zaheerul Islam’s message, that since the situation has deteriorated a lot, I should step down as country’s chief executive. And if this was not possible, I should proceed on a long leave.

Ishaq Dar was a witness to the whole episode. I felt very sorry that the ISI is an institution subordinate to the prime minister, and still its chief is calling upon me to step down or proceed on long leave.”

Answering a question, the former prime minister said, “Daughters have a special status in our society, because of which many believed that Maryam would not be convicted. But she too has been awarded seven years rigorous imprisonment, without any crime having been committed by her. This shows the fire of revenge on the other side. But, by the grace of God, my daughter is not my weakness, but my strength. She stands by me on my mission to get vote its respect. I am proud of my daughter.”

Asked what advice you would give your daughter in this hour of trial, he said, “Maryam understands all requirements of the political situation and the importance of my mission. I have told her that as we have started the mission of people’s right to rule and respect of the vote, we should be prepared to face all kinds of hardships and difficulties.”

Asked if he was aware that while leaving for Pakistan at this juncture he might not be able to see his ailing wife for months, perhaps years, he said he would regret all his life that he could not talk to Kulsoom before he leaves, and she could not see that I am standing on her bedside. Revengeful attitude of some people did not allow me and Maryam to come here at a time when Kulsoom was conscious. Today she is on the ventilator and I am going to Pakistan to face imprisonment. I can’t say if and when I would be able to see her.”

When reminded that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan claimed that he did a lot to save the PML(N) supremo from the present situation, he said I don’t want to respond to this question. According to him, Chaudhry Nisar may have taken decisions in “self-satisfaction, any electoral requirement or future possibilities”.

“But I must make it clear that I don’t regret the kind of situation I am facing at present. I am proud that fate has given me the honour to work for people’s rights and get their right to rule restored. By the grace of Allah, I am going to jail not on any corruption charge but for the sake of asking for the vote’s respect. Had I struck any compromise just for the continuity of my service, my conscience would never have forgiven me. While proceeding to the jail cell – rather than the Prime Minister’s house – I feel proud that Allah gave me the courage to resist. I have not chosen the course of cowards.”

When pointed out that there was uncertainty about the election and if he was arrested what kind of results would be expect, Mian Nawaz Sharif said the role of non-political forces was the major reason behind this uncertainty. “They are making impartialtity and fairness of election doubtful. People of Pakistan, foreign observers, and world media are seeing how these elements are active against the PML-N. They openly say that we’ll get desired results from election. But mark my words, they will face an unimaginable defeat. The honouraable people of Pakistan are going to give a verdict that those dishonoring their vote would become a warning symbol for others. Nobody would be able to rig the electoral process. Such people are playing with fire.”

Asked if he had lodged any complaint with the Election Commission about pre-poll rigging, he said; “Is the commission deaf and dumb? Doesn’t it have eyes? Doesn’t it know of the kinbd of treatment the PML-N candidates are being subjected to? Doesn’t it know that PML-N candidates are terrorized and forced to join a particular party? Is not the caretaker government seeing all this? Hasn’t anybody informed the Chief Justice of Pakistan of the situation? He is known for taking notice of even very minor things.

Everybody knows that the CJP visited the constituency of a PTI candidate and passed orders about the projects concerning that area.  Why did the CEC or the caretaker prime minister not take a notice. Had he done such a tour with a PML(N) candidate, all hell would have broken loose.”

Questioned if he regretted not taking any action against the establishment, he said he always talked to them about the national interest. I did not want to create an atmosphere of confrontation as it could harm national interests. So much so that the Kargil adventure had isolated Pakistan across the world. Even China had refused to support Pakistan’s point of view. Even in that situation I did not take any action against Gen Musharraf. But this policy of restraint did not bring any positive results. When I said that we will have to take concrete measures and set our own house in order to make the world trust our seriousness, a new game plan was started, branding my ideas as Dawnleaks.”

Asked if it was not better for him to have delayed his departure to Pakistan till the election results, Mian nawaz Sharif said although the ailment of his wife was a very serious matter, but the conviction left no option for him but to go back to Pakistan and tell people he is not afraid of jail. “I will vigourously fight for vote’s respect and establish that Pakistani nation stands by the courageous, not cowards.”

Have you been made any offer for an NRO or a deal after your conviction from the court, he was asked.

In response, he said “Had I been a man of compromises, such decisions would not have come against me. Yes, efforts were made to stop me from returning to Pakistan. These efforts continue even now. I have rejected all offers. I am going to my people who are waiting for me.”

Replying to a question regarding the press briefing of the ISPR director general, Sharif said it was very deplorable that the army spokesperson had to give explanations and justifications in such a way. He was of the view that the army was supposed to brief the nation about the border and defence situation. However, he regretted the DG’s whole press briefing from the beginning to the end revolved around the political issues. He said that the establishment had taken over even the responsibilities of the Election Commission of Pakistan, and itself determined its own liabilities as well.

He said, “It will not go on any longer now. Why did the army spokesperson have to give justification on behalf of Maj-Gen Faiz? Do they not know that every Pakistani today is well aware of the current state of national affairs. How much lamentable it is that those, who are constitutionally bound to keep an eye on the enemies, have indulged themselves in political affairs.”

I will not take the path of cowards...