Today, I look back at my abruptly terminated first term as your chief minister in 1997-1999, followed by over one year in various prisons across Pakistan, until I was ‘forced’ against my will to board an aircraft into exile.
For a man driven to work at breakneck speed for his people for two years, these years in exile were for me a miserable ordeal as valuable time was wasted.
Two and a half years later in 2003, I was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer and had to be rushed from Saudi Arabia to the United States. It was a close encounter with death. But even as I was rolled into the operation theater, I was only thinking of how we could build our nation — a vision that had been ruthlessly disrupted.
As soon as the prognosis after surgery confirmed that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, and a complete recovery was possible, I believed beyond doubt that Allah had only bestowed me with a new lease of life so I could serve His people unto my very last breath. Through a miracle of Almighty Allah, I was returned – as a cancer survivor — to serve Punjab in 2008, right from where I had left it.
From the above account, it will be easier for you to understand that I could only be your Khadim-e-Ala — a man in a hurry to deliver, to get things done.
However, our effort has not been in vain. Wherever I have traveled recently in different parts of Pakistan — Karachi, Mardan or Mattiari — people have spoken with one voice: they desire the same quality of honest, efficient governance that is present in Punjab so that like their fellow citizens in Punjab, their lives can also be changed for the better.
I have now completed two terms of government. Today, on the 31st of May, 2018, I shall no longer be your Khadim-e-Ala. I say farewell with deep respect to the people of Punjab. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you with all my heart, and bring about a difference in your life.
I seek forgiveness from all the people I could not reach and all those who could not reach me. I seek forgiveness from all those who feel I did not serve to their expectations, and from those who did not benefit from my governance.
All of you know there are some things I have never compromised on, since these are sacred to my core values: selfless service to the people, especially the common man, selection on merit, zero tolerance for corruption or incompetence, and protecting and promoting the interests of Pakistan.
If, by the grace of the Almighty, people honour me with their vote to serve them as their prime minister, I shall employ all my abilities and expend even the last ounce of my energy to serve all our provinces equally, so that the rest of the federating units not only stand at par with Punjab in terms of good governance and but also raise our beloved motherland to the heights of glory as envisaged by our founding fathers, Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Mohammad Iqbal.
As you all have known me since the 1990s, my life is an open book. I have been a fighter all my life: Fighting cancer, fighting corruption, fighting ‘qabza’ mafias, fighting false allegations, and fighting for the common man’s right to a dignified life.
I am now ready for the biggest fight of my life on July 25, the fight for Pakistan and all its people, to build a better and prosperous tomorrow so that our children can live in peace and prosperity and realise their God-given potential. Your prayers will be my reward! May Allah be with you, always.
The writer is the chief minister of Punjab.