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Nawaz Says: Judiciary has right to review immunity

Nawaz Shareef PML (N)LAHORE: Putting his weight behind the judiciary in the ongoing confrontation between it and the federal government over Swiss accounts, NRO and other issues, Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif said on Friday he was with the judiciary even at the cost of his political career.

He warned that a change in government was not far off if rulers did not mend themselves. However, he said, change should not be engineered.

“The Supreme Court has been restored after a long struggle by the nation not for defying its verdicts on each and every step,” Mr Sharif said, adding that he would not change his principled stance on the judiciary even if it cost his political career.

“I’m with the Supreme Court, with the rule of law and not ready to support any illegal step or corruption,” he said at a press conference after presiding over a party meeting held to discuss rehabilitation of flood-affected people.

In reply a question about NRO beneficiaries, he said they should voluntarily resign their government positions and if they failed to do so, they should be removed.

Asked if the head of state should be exempted from prosecution, the former prime minister said only the Supreme Court could decide about it. He, however, called for accountability of former president Pervez Musharraf and former attorney general Malik Mohammad Qayyum for withdrawing (Swiss) cases. He said that people would talk of (political) change if he or the media did not take up the issue.

Asked if he was in touch with other forces for a change, Mr Sharif said he would not take any route that led to ‘horse-trading’ and brought back the era of 80s and 90s in which secret agencies had a role to play. “I want a neat and clean change that is not engineered. Parliament and political parties should decide it, but not on the basis of give-and-take or through horse-trading.”

Warning the government that a change was inevitable, he said the rulers should reform themselves before the masses decided to bring about a change.

“I want the government to reform itself, respect institutions and respect the Supreme Court instead of browbeating it. Let the parliament become a sovereign body and respect its opinion, control inflation, end poverty and unemployment,” he told a questioner.

The PML-N chief said that poverty and unemployment could not be eradicated in one day, but at least corrective measures should be taken to tackle corruption in government departments which cost the exchequer Rs400 billion. He said that up to Rs700 billion of taxpayers’ money had been embezzled. The money, he said, could rid the country of many troubles.

In reply to a question whether his party would move the court for the trial of Gen Musharraf for abrogating the Constitution and ousting an elected government, he said only the federal government could file such a case under Article 6. He said not only the then army chief but also those who had supported his unconstitutional rule should be held accountable.

Mr Sharif called for exposing the killers of Baloch leader Akbar Khan Bugti to restore peace in Balochistan.

The PML-N chief said Kashmir was a core issue and India should settle it in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris.

About Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s sentencing by a US court, he said he had urged the prime minister to play an effective role in her release. Even if she had committed an offence she should have been tried in local courts, Mr Sharif added. “Those who handed her over to foreigners should also be held responsible.”

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