Campaigning on behalf of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) candidates for the Azad Jammu Kashmir Legislative Assembly elections, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif delivered a scathing review of the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government, in what appeared to be a rehearsal for a national election campaign.
“President Asif Ali Zardari has run a highly corrupt government,” said Sharif to a crowd of approximately 5,000 people in Bhimbar, about 50 kilometres from Mirpur. “He should quit the politics of banditry and stop damaging the country’s major institutions.”
The PML-N leader is on a five-day whirlwind tour of the territory which will hold its legislative elections on June 26. Sharif has been campaigning on behalf of several candidates for his party, but appears to be fighting a losing battle: most analysts predict a victory for the PPP in the AJK assembly.
On Monday, Sharif campaigned on behalf of Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, who is running for the LA-7 seat in Bhimber as well as Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan, a retired Army captain, who is campaigning for the LA-2 seat in Islamgarh. Sharif has also spent some time campaigning for his party’s AJK chief, Raja Farooq Haider Khan, in his native constituency, LA-26 in Hattain Bala,
Sharif’s political gatherings have seen crowds in the thousands in the territory. At least 15,000 people are estimated to have shown up for his rally in Islamgarh which, uncharacteristically for a Pakistani political event, started half an hour ahead of schedule.
The PML-N leader’s speech in both places largely consisted of rhetoric he has already been employing during his whistle-stop campaign tour throughout Sindh and Punjab. In Azad Jammu Kashmir, Sharif has been careful to add references to Kashmiris separately from Pakistanis.
“Pakistan belongs to the 180 million Pakistanis and Kashmiris, not to Zardari or Gilani. The politics of flattery will not work in Kashmir,” said Sharif.
While much of his speeches focused on lambasting the president and the PPP-led administration in the federal government for corruption and incompetence, the PML-N leader did spend some time talking about what he considered to be his own party’s accomplishments in office, both in Punjab currently as well as during the 1990s when the PML-N won the national elections twice.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2011.