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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Deposed Pakistan PM determined to lead rally despite bombing

A spokesman for Nawaz Sharif said the politician planned to travel with a convoy of supporters by road on Wednesday from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to Lahore for a rally, two days after a bomb blast in the city killed one person and wounded 30

Pakistani workers install a huge billboard of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif by the side of a road in Islamabad, along the route of his planned rally, on August 8, 2017. Anjum Naveed / AP
Pakistani workers install a huge billboard of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif by the side of a road in Islamabad, along the route of his planned rally, on August 8, 2017. Anjum Naveed / AP

Pakistan's deposed prime minister is determined to hold a rally in his powerbase, the eastern city of Lahore, despite a deadly bombing there this week, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in another challenge to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, a firebrand opposition cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri returned home after mainly living abroad amid pending court-cases against him in Pakistan. He has vowed to get justice for eight supporters killed during 2014 anti-government rallies.

It came as a spokesman for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said the politician planned to travel with a convoy of supporters by road on Wednesday from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, to Lahore for a rally, two days after a bomb blast in the city killed one person and wounded 30.

Police were on Tuesday investigating the bombing that struck Lahore late on Monday. The spokesman for Mr Sharif, Malik Mohammad Ahmed, said that despite a security threat to the former prime minister's rally, "there is no change in the plans". He did not elaborate.

Last month, Pakistan's supreme court disqualified the three-times elected Mr Sharif from office over concealing assets — specifically, that his son's Dubai-based company listed a monthly salary for him. Mr Sharif has repeatedly claimed he never received any of that money.

His removal from power plunged Pakistan into political turmoil but Sharif loyalists in the Pakistani parliament promptly elected senior MP Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the country's new prime minister.

Mr Sharif's party wants Mr Abbasi to serve as an interim premier for 45 days or until Mr Sharif's younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, wins a national assembly seat in a by-election.

Mr Qadri, the fiery cleric, said on Tuesday he will launch a fresh anti-government campaign and praised the supreme court for disqualifying Mr Sharif.

"Nawaz Sharif lost power due to the curse of those who lost their dear ones" in the 2014 shootouts with police, the cleric said.

Three years ago, senior opposition leader and former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Mr Qadri led months of anti-Sharif street demonstrations, accusing the prime minister of massive fraud in the 2013 election that brought him to office for the third time. That election was also Pakistan's first-ever democratic transfer of power.

Mr Sharif, however, never completed any of his three full terms in office. In the two earlier terms, the country's all-powerful army removed him from power.