"It’s a great day for Pakistan. Democracy has won and dictatorship has lost," said Nawaz Sharif commenting on the Supreme Court judgment clearing the way for him and his brother Shahbaz to end their eight year exile and return to their country.
Speaking exclusively to
, the former Pakistan prime minister was upbeat about his country's future. "Pakistan is now on to good things. Soon it will become the kind of country envisaged by Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, where there will be rule by the people and not by the army." <b1>
Given his fair complexion and clad in a typically English blazer, red tie and grey flannels, Sharif looked the perfect country squire, rather than a political leader who had just won a major legal victory.
When asked whether, if he returned to power, he proposed to renew the terms of the Lahore Pact he had signed with the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee shortly before he was deposed, he said, "Certainly. That is an unfinished agenda."
"I think we are going to pick up the threads again from where we left off," he added. On how sincere General Pervez Musharraf was in his protestations of wanting peace with India, Sharif replied, "I don’t know. Musharraf is in the habit of making all kinds of proposals and counter-proposals off the cuff. He does not consult anybody. There is no proper institutionalised decision-making forum where he can discuss and debate issues. Parliament is bypassed. I don't agree with that style of functioning."
When did he propose to return to Pakistan? Sharif was reticent. "My party is holding its meeting at the highest level. It will decide the date for my return," he said.
Was he not worried that Gen Musharraf might initiate corruption or kickbacks related cases against him? "There are no cases of corruption or kickbacks against me. Maybe he is fabricating some thing, he has great expertise in fabricating cases and charges against people who do not shake hands with him," Sharif replied. <b2>
"I am not afraid. I started a struggle for restoration of people’s rule and will see its to successful conclusion. I was kept in solitary imprisonment for 14 months. My family and friends were tyrannised and tortured. Nothing will deter me now," Sharif noted.
Asked whether he would accept any deal if offered by the General, Sharif was emphatic. "I do not accept olive branches from dictators. It is for people to decide what they want. I think they are fed up with dictators and their regimes," he said.
When pointed out that Benazir Bhutto did meet the General and there had been some talk about a possible deal, he said, "I was little disturbed about that. We feel let down. We assigned a Charter where it was stipulated that there would be no deal with a military regime. Any talk with Musharraf is a blatant violation of the Charter."
Once in Pakistan, Sharif proposed to launch a campaign under the broad umbrella of the All Party Democratic Movement (APDM) for the restoration of democratic rule. But this umbrella would not include Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party. "I want to restore the original Constitution and remove all the amendments that facilitate dictatorships. This way the democratic system will be strengthened, the rule of law will be restored with a free judiciary and free media. And of course a free and fair election," he said.
"A democracy means people's rule. The army in Pakistan should have the same role that armies do in any democracy — in Britain, for instance,” he said. "Only future will decide Musharraf’s future," Sharif concluded.