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Pakistan's Sharif Criticizes Supreme Court For Forcing Him From Office

RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal August 11, 2017

Deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif criticized the country's Supreme Court for disqualifying him from office over undisclosed wealth on the second day of his "caravan of democracy" on August 10.

Sharif stopped for the night in the town of Jhelum, about one-third of the way through a procession from Islamabad to his hometown of Lahore, a journey that appears staged to show that he remains popular among voters despite being forced out of office last month.

Giving a speech in Jhelum on a makeshift stage behind bulletproof glass, Sharif told a crowd of about 10,000 supporters that the Supreme Court justices acted against the people's will.

"I was removed in a minute," he said. "It is not an insult to an elected prime minister, but an insult to millions of voters."

Sharif said his conscience is "clean" about the charges against him.

Sharif launched the "caravan" despite concerns among close advisers about his security. He has attracted crowds of thousands of people so far during the journey, although the numbers had dwindled somewhat by the time he got to Jhelum.

Sharif resigned on July 28, shortly after the Supreme Court disqualified him from office following an investigation that concluded that his family could not account for what the court said was vast wealth in offshore companies.

The claim stems from the Panama Papers leaks in April 2016, when documents from a Panama-based law firm revealed that three of Sharif's four children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family's wealth statement.

Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party elected his close aide Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as his replacement on August 1.

Sharif spoke briefly to his supporters at Sohawa while en route to Jhelum.

"There are no allegations of corruption against me," Sharif told the crowds from inside his bulletproof car. "The honorable judges sent me home. Do you agree with their decision?" he asked.

The march is taking place amid tight security, with large numbers of police officers and paramilitary soldiers deployed both in Islamabad and along the Grand Trunk Road, the main highway connecting the capital with Lahore.

Late on August 9, addressing a rally in Rawalpindi, Sharif said the court's decision to disqualify him from office last month was an "insult to voters."

Sharif's "caravan" took 12 hours to travel the 20 kilometers from Islamabad to Rawalpindi due to big crowds estimated as large as 30,000 that were walking and driving alongside his car.

However, Sharif's decision to address crowds from within a bulletproof car drew criticism from Imran Khan, the leader of the Tehreek-i-Insaf opposition party.

"Speaking from a bulletproof car doesn't inspire confidence in already dwindling crowds. If you fear death, you shouldn't undertake 'people's' rallies," Khan tweeted on August 10.

With reporting by dawn.com, AP, and AFP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/pakistan-sharif-march- lahore-supreme-court/28669614.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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