‘I have come to light a fire in you,’ Nawaz tells spirited crowd in Gujranwala

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday resumed his road trip back to his hometown, Lahore, via the Grand Trunk (GT) Road after an overnight stay at a hotel located on the banks of the River Jhelum.

During the journey, he touched base briefly at Kharian and Lalamusa and stopped for a longer period at Gujrat in the afternoon to address supporters.

The Sharif convoy reached Gujranwala, its final destination for the day, at night, where he addressed a large crowd.

PML-N workers in Gujranwala had set up a stage and sound system for the former premier to address his loyalists.

According to the schedule issued by PML-N, Sharif will spend the night in Gujranwala and leave for Lahore in the morning. He is expected to reach Lahore at 4pm on Saturday.

‘Nawaz Sharif is with you today’

“Nawaz Sharif is with you today,” the deposed prime minister told his supporters in Gujranwala. “You elected him, did you not? They have removed Nawaz Sharif, but they cannot remove him from your hearts,” he said.

“They’ve only removed me on paper. Is this removing me at all? [If it were up to you] you would make me prime minister again tomorrow. However, it is not my goal to be the PM again,” he said.

“My case in Gujranwala’s court is to find out why the people of Gujranwala think I was removed,” he continued.

“Was it because I eliminated load-shedding? Was it because the economy was improving? Was it because people were getting jobs? Was it because roads were being constructed and factories were being set up?

“Or was it because peace was being brought to the country?” he asked, to a resounding “no!” at each question.

“These things did not suit them [the conspirators],” he continued. “They could not tolerate this. They were thinking: ‘If this continues, Nawaz will be elected again.”

“Tell me, people of Gujranwala: was this not what they were thinking,” he asked to a resounding “yes!”

“There have been conspiracies for the past three and a half years. When our progress sped up, the conspiracies also sped up.”

“There is [still] no allegation of corruption against me. There is not a rupee of corruption linked to my name — even those who disqualified me admit that,” he claimed.

“Then why did they remove me?”

“I turned this country into an atomic power. Is this how you treat someone who did that for his country?”

“They removed me twice from power before; and this time, again, I was not allowed to complete my tenure,” he railed.

“Does the vote of 200 million count for nothing?” he asked.

“If there is any value in your vote, you will have to hold these people accountable,” he urged.

“Pakistan’s 70th birthday is around the corner. You should take an oath to never let this happen again,” he said. “And when the people of Gujranwala take an oath, they stand by it. I know,” he said to loud cheers.

“All those who gave the verdict [against me], look at Gujranwala’s verdict!” he raged. “They do not accept it!”

“Will you bring back Pakistan’s honour?” he asked his supporters. “Will you demand that your vote hold its value?” he asked to resounding cheers.

“My heart beats with the heart of our youth. I will not rest till you get respectable employment in this country. I have come to set you alight today,” Nawaz said.

“Come, let’s change the Pakistan. Let’s write a new history for our country!”

“O people of Gujranwala! I know you will not disappoint me. I have faith in you and I am proud of you. I will stand by you as we do it together.”

“Take an oath today. Say, we will do this together!”

“Do you accept what I say? Answer me!” he roared, inviting loud cheers of “We accept!” and “We are with you!”

“I will give you my programme — will you follow me when I do?” he asked, inviting cheers of assent.

“This is our country. We will grow and prosper together,” he promised. “We will fulfill all our hopes and dreams together.”

“Fulfill your promise to me, and with your hand in mine, we will take this country to new heights,” he said. “Say with me: God willing, we will do this!”, he said, inviting cheers of assent.

Nawaz also expressed his grief at the death of a nine-year-old run over by his convoy earlier in the day. He promised that he would visit the child’s family himself and provide them help and support throughout their lifetime.

“Stay happy and stay blessed, people of Gujranwala. You have kept my honour, and I will keep yours, God willing!” he said in conclusion.

Gujrat stopover

Before Gujranwala, the Sharif convoy had made a stop in Gujrat, where the former PM offered Friday prayers and held a consultative meeting with local workers.

Preparations were made for him to address supporters at Gujrat’s GTS Chowk.

“Lahore is not the final destination, it is just the first stop,” PML-N’s Talal Chaudhry had said of the party’s plan. “This grand dialogue will move forward and the supremacy of the people will come into play,” he had claimed.

‘Wait for my message’

“I am back in the court of the people,” Sharif had told his loyalists in Gujrat. “I have filed no appeal in the courts, my only appeal is in yours,” he said.

“Have you accepted the decision of that [Supreme] court?” he asked.

“People accuse us of hiring people to attend our rallies. Are you for hire?” he asked, to which the crowd responded, “No!”

“Why did you people give me your votes in 2013?” he asked, reminding people of the promises he had made to them and attempted to deliver on.

Today, your fans work. Your tubewells work, industries are running, agriculturists are in business, cities are alight … Next year, we will say goodbye to load-shedding for good,” he said.

“So why was I de-seated? Someone tell me how I committed corruption. There is not a single stain of corruption on me,” he claimed.

Supporters of Pakistani ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif attend a rally in Gujrat city in Punjab province on August 11, 2017. Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continued a slow, defiant procession down the ancient Grand Trunk Road on August 11, inching closer to his eastern stronghold of Lahore in a bid to rally supporters after his ouster. / AFP PHOTO / AAMIR QURESHI
Supporters of Pakistani ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif attend a rally in Gujrat city in Punjab province on August 11, 2017.
Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continued a slow, defiant procession down the ancient Grand Trunk Road on August 11, inching closer to his eastern stronghold of Lahore in a bid to rally supporters after his ouster. / AFP PHOTO / AAMIR QURESHI

“The judges themselves say that Nawaz Sharif has not committed any corruption,” he added, echoing his speech from yesterday and the day before.

“They removed me because I did not take a salary from my son. What kind of father takes a salary from his son?” he asked.

“They took your votes, ripped them up and returned them to you,” he thundered.

“This is the respect given to your vote. Your vote has not been respected at all,” he said.

“Is this acceptable to you? How long will this go on? For 70 years, a mockery has been made of this country. I cannot bear it anymore. Can you?” he asked, reiterating points made in speeches over the past two days.

“This is the third time they have done this to me,” he said. “First, a president removed me; then Pervez Musharraf, a dictator, removed me; and now the judiciary has removed me. Tell me, what should we do now? Should I sit at home? Or should I fight this injustice?”

“You do not want me to sit at home. You do not want me to accept this decision. What do you want me to do? Will you stand with me? Will you stand with me as I bring the nation out of darkness?”

“No one will be able to stop Pakistan from progressing, I promise you, but then you will have to do as I ask you to,” he told them.

“This is about the honour of 200 million people, and no one will crush this honour under their foot,” he said.

“Will you wait for my message?” he asked, to which the crowd responded, “Yes!”

Child run over

Sharif’s rally was marred by the death of a nine-year-old child near Lalamusa, who was run over by an Elite Forces vehicle part of his convoy.

None of the cars in the convoy had stopped to take account of the child’s injuries.

The child was taken to a ;local hospital where he was pronounced dead. His father had fainted upon seeing his son’s body and had also required medical attention. Initial reports suggested that he was being treated for a heart attack.

Convoy resumes journey on day 3

Nawaz Sharif was said to be in good spirits as he spoke to reporters in an informal setting before resuming his journey from Jhelum to Gujranwala on Friday.

Although there weren’t enough supporters on the road earlier in the day, a satisfactory crowd had gathered by 10am, and the former PM seemed happy with the numbers, IPP News reported.

Sharif’s convoy was showered with rose petals as it crossed Sarae Alamgir on its way to Kharian.

As the convoy approached Kharian, anti-Nawaz songs could be heard played inside Kharian Cantonment,  There was an estimated crowd of about 2,000-3,000 people waiting to welcome the procession in the area.

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