'Our success in the cantonment board elections is not ordinary [...] we wiped out the PTI,' says PML-N president
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday expressed confidence that his party still held sway in the country, saying that PTI will be "buried forever" after the 2023 general elections.
Addressing a PML-N workers convention in Rawalpindi, the Opposition leader, congratulated the party for achieving significant success in the recently held cantonment board elections.
In the polls held on September 12, PTI managed to secure 63 seats while the PML-N won 59 seats from across the country.
"Our success in the cantonment board elections is not ordinary," he said, noting that the party had performed even better in Rawalpindi than Lahore, a city considered their stronghold. "We wiped out the PTI," he declared.
Speaking of the 2023 elections, he demanded that they be held transparently, adding that he holds these expectations from Election Commission of Pakistan, the judiciary and all institutions.
Shahbaz said that three years ago, when the PTI came into power, "having this selected prime minister selected destroyed Pakistan".
He said now, after 3.25 years, the people's "eyes have opened" to the truth.
The Opposition leader said that Pakistan "has no respect" and has been left "penniless".
"They have ruined the economy with the loans they have taken," he added.
"And this selected prime minister then says 'you must not panic'."
Shahbaz urged the people to "take a stand" against soaring inflation.
"They said they would provide millions of jobs, and have instead deprived hundreds of thousands of employment," he said.
He said that the poor man today is left to his devices, with "no (affordable) medicine" and with the prices of flour, pulses and sugar rocketing sky high.
"Our 2018 manifesto promised homes for people [...] had it been our government in power today, we would already have provided hundreds of thousands of people homes," Shahbaz claimed.
"Had it been our tenure, hundreds of thousands would have been granted jobs," he added.
Shahbaz also criticised the rupee's depreciation, saying that the dollar seems to have "sprouted wings".
"We must drown out this government with the tidal wave of the people," he urged.
PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif, who addressed the gathering prior to Shahbaz, echoed similar sentiments, saying that the people have grown tired of the growing inflation and poverty.
He told the party workers to be at the ready. "The elections can be called at any time," he said, adding: "It will soon be time to send the government packing."
Asif urged party workers to create unity within their ranks. "There is no dispute at the leadership level. Any discord that exists at the local level, must be put to rest. We must have unity if we wish to win the government mandate come election time," he stressed.
The PML-N leader called upon "all supporters, from Karachi to Peshawar", to stand behind party supremo Nawaz Sharif.
Reacting to Shahbaz claims, Minister for Prisons Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said that the Opposition leader had declared all elections as "rigged", with the exception of the cantonment board polls.
"The elections they win are declared transparent and those they lose are claimed to be rigging-riddled. This is an old habit of the N-league," he said.
Chohan said that the people are tired alright since the last three years, but of listening to the "same old narrative" pushed by the PML-N.
"Shahbaz Sharif says that had his party been in power, then hundreds of thousands of homes would have been constructed. He couldn't even make a few thousand homes in the Ashiyana Housing Scheme properly," the PTI minister said.
The minister went on to say that in Shahbaz Sharif's tenure "every project of the PML-N was exposed that same tenure through an audit".
He said that "Showbaz's" claim of victory in the 2023 polls is a "madman's dream".
Chohan went on to list all the initiatives taken during the PTI era. "PM Imran Khan took excellent measures even as he was challenged with the coronavirus crisis," he said.
"The whole world has praised the benefits of smart lockdowns and the Ehsaas programme," he added.
Continuing to refer to the PML-N leader as "Showbaz", Chohan said that the Opposition leader would do well to refrain from "tricks" that involve "trembling on stage, or clumsily fiddling with the microphone".
He said the Opposition should get ready to be dealt an exemplary defeat in the next elections.
"The PTI, on the basis of its performance, will win the next election as well," he claimed.