If Nawaz Sharif has his way, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be present at his oath-taking ceremony.
“I am happy to extend an invitation to the Indian premier,” Nawaz said while speaking to the foreign media at Raiwind on Monday. “It will be a great pleasure for me and for Pakistan if he attends the [oath-taking] ceremony.”
He said he received a call from Singh on Sunday, in which both leaders extended invitations for visiting their countries.
In an astonishing comeback 14 years after he was ousted by a military coup and briefly jailed, his party, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), is projected to win 130 of the 272 directly elected seats in the National Assembly.
Asked about election rigging allegations by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Nawaz said, “Imran Khan should show some sportsman’s spirit,” and drop complaints of voting fraud. He termed the elections free and fair and said all parties should accept the results.
The PML-N chief said his party has readily accepted election results where it failed to win majority seats, as in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) where the PTI won the highest number of seats.
“Just as we respect their mandate, we expect them to respect ours,” he said.
“We can very easily say that elections in K-P were rigged, but we would not say so since we don’t believe that.”
Nawaz said his party also accepted results of the 2008 elections despite their “hands being tied by Musharraf at the time.”
“I think its time we all show sportsman’s spirit and accept the results of the general elections.”
About the former ruling party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, Nawaz said that it was due to the performance of the party over the past five years that it did not manage to secure majority seats in the country.
He said many people say the party was confined because it was under attack. This, however, was not the reason why it lost.
“We too faced attacks. The son of our party president in Balochistan was killed in an attack, as were his brother and nephew,” Nawaz said, adding that the elections were performance-related, which is why the PPP lost.
The PML-N chief was also questioned about his relations with the army. “I never had a problem with the army,” he said. However, when asked about the 1999 coup, where his government was toppled, Nawaz said there was only one person to blame for that: former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
“The coup was staged by a single person and that was Mr Musharraf. The rest of the army was never taken into confidence,” he said, adding that he believes the army resented Musharraf’s move.
The PML-N president said both the army and bureaucracy have to work together. “We are facing huge problems in this country and we have to be on the same page in order to solve them.”
Ties with United States
Nawaz promised Pakistan’s ‘full support’ as the United States withdraws combat troops from Afghanistan. “If there are concerns on either side I think we should address those concerns and strengthen this relationship,” Sharif said, referring to Pakistan’s alliance with the United States which can be notoriously difficult.
The US and Nato are due to withdraw most of their troops from the war against the Afghan Taliban by the end of 2014 and Pakistan will be a key transit point for shipping home equipment overland to the port at Karachi.
“We will extend full support to them and we will see everything goes smoothly,” Sharif said, hours after President Barack Obama said Washington was ready to work with Islamabad ‘as equal partners’ and welcomed the transition.
One the thorny issue of US drone strikes in the tribal belt, Nawaz said: “They are indeed challenging our sovereignty. We have taken this matter very seriously.”
He said his party he has spoken to the American government about the issue during their meetings but will raise it with their ‘American friends’ in the future as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2013.
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