Put our house in order, as there is an urgent need for a national agenda to pull Pakistan out of its current crises and take it on the path of democracy, said PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif.
In a speech delivered from London to the Asma Jahangir Conference held in Lahore, the former prime minister once again hit out at the military establishment and criticised interference in judicial and government affairs that he claimed had led to Pakistan’s “downfall”, dawn.com reported.
Nawaz began his speech, relayed during the closing ceremony, by paying tribute to the late celebrated lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir, but the live stream abruptly stopped shortly after.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said the current era that Pakistan was going through was a “turning point” in its story.
“The most dangerous aspect is the deepening disappointment and severe helplessness [among the people],” he said. “History is witness that when nations descend into the quagmire of despair, questions start to be raised about that nation’s survival.”
He said the 220 million people of Pakistan were demanding answers to some fundamental questions and until they received those, the country’s state of affairs would not improve.
“If the tongue of the questioner is pulled, this does not resolve problems,” he added, likening the allegedly deliberate internet disruption during his speech to “pulling [our] tongue”.
“Will this solve problems? And then picking up those asking questions and disappearing them, will that end the questions? Unfortunately, the current era has proven to be the blackest era for freedom of speech and human rights.”
Nawaz said regional and international circumstances had accentuated Pakistan’s need to “correct ourselves”.
“That is why I said repeatedly that we have to put our house in order and we should open our eyes. Then the drama of ‘Dawn leaks’ was staged against us, punishments were given to us through fake cases, and then you saw how [we] were humiliated,” he told the audience.
But he said the time had come for the voices present at the event to “gather on one platform and draft a national agenda and give it the shape of a national movement”, for the sake of the rule of law and democracy.
“My suggestion is that [based on] all the recommendations given in this conference, an immediate strategy be formed and everyone sit together, so that the path of practical struggle can be adopted. It is very important. We have been very late and cannot afford more delay. This work should be done today,” he stressed.
Organisers condemn ‘muzzling’ of speech
In a statement issued after the event, the organisers of the Asma Jahangir Conference regretted what they termed “the state’s highhandedness” for allegedly blocking Nawaz’s speech.
“The internet provider was restrained from providing the organisers with internet services for the conference two hours before the closing and Mr Sharif’s speech was supposed to start,” the statement said, adding that cellular internet services were also cut off two hours before the closing session in the vicinity of the Avari Hotel Lahore.
“The organisers of Asma Jahangir Conference 2021, which include the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council, and the AGHS, strongly condemn this act and consider it an onslaught on the freedom of expression. These steps can never deter our resolve to give voice to the marginalised communities.”
After the video call was cut off, the organisers arranged for a telephonic address by Nawaz, the statement said.
It quoted Munizae Jahangir as saying: “We believe in freedom of expression that is why this non-partisan platform is open to everyone and we condemn the muzzling of the closing session where Mian Nawaz Sharif was going to make an address.”