LAHORE - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) patron Nawaz Sharif has hinted that pending criminal references against him will be decided within the next 20 days and that he will stand firm on his respect-the-vote ideology in any case.

“I do not know what is my future and where I will be in the next 20 days yet I maintain that wherever I am, I shall remain resolute and firm on my ideology and commitment that is nothing but respect to the vote, which has been defiled over the last 70 years and no elected prime minister has been allowed to complete his term,” the former prime minister said while addressing party leaders and office bearers from Faisalabad and Gujranwala at the PML-N Model Town Secretariat on Saturday.

If the country has changed, the track it has been moving on since its inception in 1947 must also be changed to preserve sanctity of the vote, he said, adding preserving sanctity of the vote would solve all problems and improve service delivery to the masses. PML-N President and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also spoke to the gathering on this occasion.

During his speech, Nawaz asked party workers to get ready for the struggle to translate the respect-the-vote ideology into a reality. He said, “Ignominy and disgrace of the last 70 years will continue to trail the country if we do not stand up to change the course of things.” He said, “Had we learnt from the past mistakes, we would have been in a far better situation today. We suffered from fall of Dhaka in 1971, but we did not shun the policy, which led to that tragedy. Till date, we are toeing the same line,” the former prime minister said. He said, “These ominous factors have pushed us far behind even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka economically.” He said this was time to search the soul to know “why we are behind others and why we are always suffering from frustration”.

On his respect-the-vote ideology, he said it had become a household slogan today and added “we need to give due respect to the vote practically if we want others to do it. Today, I am witnessing an unprecedented enthusiasm of people that has been growing since I came to Lahore from Islamabad via GT Road. This massive response to my call speaks volumes about the success of this movement,” he said. He said the PML-N was being purged of those who the party did not want to give tickets in the next general elections.

Nawaz also censured PTI Chairman Imran Khan on this occasion. In a veiled reference to the alliance between Khan and the establishment, he referred to the statement of JI chief Sirajul Haq wherein he said that PTI lawmakers voted for the PPP-nominated candidate for Senate chairman’s office on directions from the top. He belied the PTI clarification that ‘top’ referred to Banigala (residence of Imran Khan) and said everyone knew what the ‘top’ meant. He said, “We should give up politics if we have to act on dictates from the top.” He advised Imran to quit politics since he was tied to instructions from the ‘top’.

The PML-N patron termed the Senate elections a drama and asked the party workers to get ready to bring an end to such dramas. He said horse trading of worst order was seen in the last Senate elections. He said Imran called PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari the ‘biggest malady’, but he joined hands with him in the Senate elections to get the PPP candidate elected Senate chairman. This was height of hypocrisy on part of Iman, he said. He asked how can Imran justify his slogan of change when he himself is appended to Zardari? He said Pakistan could not be driven to the 21st century unless such acts in politics are eliminated. Inspiring the workers, he said, “Don’t be afraid as death with honour is more precious than life of disgrace. No one can take away your life as long as you are divinely destined to live. So, stand up to defeat falsehood and uphold truth.”

Nawaz said he worked to end the energy crisis, terrorism and economic slump during his four years in power. Since he was ousted from power, he said, things nosedived. He said that cases against him were fake and statement of JIT head Wajid Zia before the trial court showed he was innocent. He said he was not afraid of anyone and he was determined to stand up against oppression and change what had been happening in Pakistan for the last 70 years. He said people would give the prime minister the mandate to rule, but “they” would throw him out. This is not tolerable anymore, he said, adding that those who violated the constitution were moving freely and no law was laying hands on them. He said it was time to pledge to rise up to change all that. He said the country could not move ahead in the prevailing circumstances.