By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif culminated his four-day “homecoming” march on Saturday night in northeastern Lahore city where thousands of his supporters gathered to welcome him.
“Look, look who has come – lion has come lion has come”, “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif”, “people’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif”, and so on were the slogans chanted by emotionally-charged supporters of Sharif who was disqualified by the country’s Supreme Court late last month in the Panama papers scandal for concealing his assets.
Sharif had set off on his 380-kilometer (237-mile) journey on Wednesday from capital Islamabad, which has been referred to as a display of the continued standing and strength of the former premier who repeatedly targeted the Supreme Court judges for disqualifying him.
Around 8,000 security personnel were deployed around the venue of the ousted prime minister’s culminating speech following a security alert from the intelligence agencies.
Roads were sealed and businesses ordered to close by police in several parts of Lahore — Sharif’s hometown and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s seat of power.
Sharif’s backers threw rose petals and waved posters of the former premier as they lined the roads and trailed his motorcade.
“Do you see any logic behind this judgement? You had sent me as a prime minister to Islamabad, and the five judges disqualified me within a minute without any cogent reason. Nobody has accepted this verdict,” Sharif said in a chocked voice while addressing his supporters at the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Data Gujg Bux.
“Those who have disqualified me, are they themselves qualified to disqualify me,” Sharif — who has a unique distinction of being removed thrice in last 27 years — went on his tirade against judges.
“I promise you that I will not sit idle, and you must not as well. I will give you a new program on the Independence Day [Aug. 14],” he said.
Some commentators have viewed Sharif’s march as an aggressive attempt to remain in the limelight, rally support and possibly influence the courts set to hear the corruption cases.
However, Sharif, who has held office as prime minister on three occasions but never completed a full term, has said the march is aimed at strengthening democracy and the rule of law.
He has already nominated his wife, Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, to contest his seat in by-election in Lahore next month to replace him in parliament.