Lahore – In a powerful return to his homeland, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resolutely emphasized his tenure’s accomplishments and a momentous decision from the past – conducting nuclear tests in response to India’s atomic explosion in 1998, despite a substantial offer of USD 5 billion by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton not to do so.
The 73-year-old leader, concluding a self-imposed exile in the UK lasting four years, embarked on a significant journey to reassume leadership of his party. His aim: securing an unprecedented fourth term in the upcoming general elections, expected to transpire in January.
Arriving in a traditional yet elegant ensemble consisting of a light blue kurta pyjama, a maroon muffler, and a black coat, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo touched down in Islamabad on the ‘Umeed-e-Pakistan’ chartered plane, marking his homecoming. Subsequently, he made his way to Lahore, widely recognized as a stronghold of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Addressing a massive gathering, Sharif expressed his unwavering connection with the people, stating, “I am meeting you today after several years, but my relationship of love with you is the same. There is no difference in this relationship. The love I am seeing in your eyes, I am proud of it.” He reflected on the immense pressure exerted by foreign governments in 1998 when Pakistan contemplated responding to India’s nuclear tests.
Sharif shared a captivating historical detail: “There will be a record present in the Foreign Office that Clinton offered me USD 5 billion. This transpired in 1999. It might have been USD 1 billion, but my roots in the soil of Pakistan forbade me from accepting what ran counter to Pakistan’s interests.”
With a touch of sarcasm, Sharif questioned, “Tell me, if someone else would have been in my place – you know who – could he have spoken this candidly in front of the American president?” In a stirring speech that lasted nearly 60 minutes at the PML-N rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan, he affirmed, “We conducted the atomic test and provided India with a fitting response to their nuclear tests.”
Sharif then pondered the consequences, asking, “So, must we face retribution for this? Are verdicts issued against us for this reason?” Emphatically, he underscored that he never betrayed his supporters and remained steadfast in the face of numerous fabricated cases against him, his daughter, and party leaders.
He raised the question, “Tell me, who are they that separated Nawaz Sharif from his nation? We are the ones who constructed Pakistan. We empowered Pakistan as a nuclear force and put an end to energy shortages.” Sharif also noted the contrasting economic reality by remarking that the cost of basic sustenance is significantly higher today than during his tenure.
In closing, he inquired, “Was I removed from power for this reason? What kind of decision is this? You, the public, you decide. Do you agree with this decision?”
While lamenting Pakistan’s current dire situation, the PML-N leader pledged to guide the nation back on the path of progress.