Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, on Thursday talked about how he spent his days in jail, his niece Maryam Nawaz’s political future, Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and many other issues in an interview given to Kamran Khan on Dunya News.

A typical day in jail

When asked what is a typical day in jail and how he spent those eight months, Shehbaz said: “I used to pray for Pakistan in jail. It is not easy to remain in jail as it takes a lot of patience to remain in jail. Allah gives one hope there. I would get up for Fajr prayers, I continued my morning walk. After exercise, I would have my breakfast and then recite the Quran. I would read books like Bob Woodward’s Rage. I read Islamic books and read tafseer (explanation) of Quran as I had a lot of time on my hands in solitary confinement. I would feed birds when I was there. I once fed aaloo chanay to birds. I saw that a crow washed the potato with water as it was spicy, which I found very fascinating as they say that crows are wise so I would observe the birds keenly.”

Corruption cases

Kamran Khan asked Shehbaz about the allegations against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Sharif said since this is a sub judice matter, NAB invited him for the Saaf Paani case and arrested him in Ashiana scandal. During his arrest, they again arrested him in Ramzan Sugar Mills, and then assets beyond means case was opened against him. “I was given bail on merit in February 2019 in Ashiana and Ramzan Sugar Mills case.” He denied all charges of corruption. Shehbaz Sharif said that there is a NAB-Niazi collusion to target the Sharif family. “What else have they [the government] done in three years? They have no other priority other than how to destroy Sharifs’ businesses and our reputation. All they are interested in is to target my elder brother Nawaz Sharif and our family members.” He asked have they proved a penny of corruption against us. 


Medical treatment in Britain

Shehbaz Sharif said he is a cancer survivor. He has been getting an annual check up in Britain since 2003. When asked how he would have entered Britain since Pakistan is on a Red List, Shehbaz said he took a chance to go via Doha and if that wasn’t allowed, he would have gone via Istanbul as Turkey was not on Britain’s Red List at that time. “I wasn’t going to Britain to play a cricket match or to learn jaadu tona (black magic). I was going there for my medical treatment and also to see my family.”

Pakistan Democratic Movement 

Kamran Khan asked him about the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) while he was in jail and if he was involved directly or indirectly with PDM’s decisions. “As luck would have it, PDM was formed when I went to jail. PDM faced divisions within the alliance when I was in jail. I do not impose my views on anyone. I wasn’t allowed to meet my lawyers or family regularly either. I would give my advice when someone sought it. I didn’t know much about it [PDM]. Now I will be there in the next PDM meeting….Such alliances were formed in the past too like MRD, etc.” Shehbaz said differences do take place in such alliances. “No party alone can take a decision unilaterally. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is the head of PDM, so such decisions are taken with consensus. Even if PDM isn’t there in its original form, I am the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and it is my duty to talk to all Opposition parties on issues like budget, Covid, foreign policy, Kashmir, Palestine or CPEC. Even if there are divisions in PDM, we have this forum in parliament.” 

Roadmap for the future

Shehbaz Sharif said that Pakistan is facing a lot of problems. “India is a member of G20. We came into being together; we should have been leading in the comity of global nations. Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan, now has a GDP growth rate higher than ours. How unfortunate that today, Afghanistan’s currency is stronger than Pakistan’s.”

Sharif lamented that this is a selected government. “They came into power after massive rigging.” General Bajwa said in front of me that Mian Nawaz Sharif has given me a lot of respect and never said no to anything related to defence. “Confrontation is not our path; it has to be consultation. This country cannot move forward without this. We need a consultative process between all institutions within the limits set by the Constitution. No one institution can take us out of this quagmire alone. It has to be through collective wisdom and efforts can we make Pakistan as a going country among comity of nations.” Kamran Khan said this is music to everyone’s ears. 

Nawaz Sharif

Asked if Nawaz Sharif would agree to these suggestions, Shehbaz Sharif said: “He [Nawaz] is a statesman. I guarantee you he will be more than willing to contribute towards nation building efforts if there is a new social order which guarantees free and fair elections, all institutions work within their constitutional boundaries, judiciary is independent and free, and every government is allowed to work independently. Reconciliation is still possible; it’s never too late. Nawaz Sharif would be more than willing to do this, I guarantee you.” 

He said that when he goes to London, he will meet Nawaz. “He is my leader, he is like my father. There is no compromise on national interest. I am sure he will promote national interest if there is a level-playing field. Even if I have to hold his feet for national interest, I will do so because it is my national duty. I am a Pakistani first and then anything else.”

Maryam Nawaz

Kamran Khan asked Shehbaz about Maryam Nawaz’s active political role in the last few months. “Maryam has a right to be in politics; she is now a politician. Time is on her side. The awaam (people) will decide. I am telling you whether it is Hamza who spent 21 months in jail or someone else from other parties, they all have a right to enter politics and then the people will decide.

“Time is on Maryam’s side, time is on Hamza’s side. They need grooming. Maryam’s father, who is a statesman, will groom her. I will groom her as her uncle from my experience. We need to alleviate poverty, eliminate unemployment. This is our agenda. If we cannot follow this agenda, then politics means nothing.”

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan

“Chaudhry Nisar was not my friend; he was Nawaz Sharif’s friend. Whether you like it or not, I have always inherited his [Nawaz’s] legacy. Whether it’s Chaudhry Nisar or Khawaja Asif or Khawaja Hamid or anyone else. Chaudhry Nisar was initially against me, then he became a close friend of mine. Unfortunately, this 30-year-old friendship ended on a bad note. I won’t go into the details. When my mother passed away, I met him when he came for her fateha (prayers). Taking oath is Chaudhry Nisar’s own decision; he did not consult me. He did not directly consult me on this.”

Electoral reforms

Shehbaz Sharif said that without electoral reforms, no one can take a step forward. However, he said this does not mean that electronic voting machines are the answer. “Who are they trying to befool? We all want to give the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis. But in the garb of providing them the right to vote through electronic voting machines, we cannot have an RTS again.”

Summary of the interview 

Shehbaz Sharif said that unity and a consultative process is needed and Parliament is the forum where this can be done. “We need a middle way for national reconciliation, consultative process with all institutions. Unfortunately, Parliament has been locked by Imran Khan Niazi. We need meaningful, substantial consultation in parliament. He [PM Khan] hates me so much that he did not even mention my name or title in the letters addressed to me by the Prime Minister. I addressed him by his title and name but he responded without mentioning my name again. If he is only interested in what his pir (spiritual guide) will tell him on how to destroy the Opposition, if this is his only priority, then what can I say?”

Complete interview: