Smile is back on Nawaz’s face, jokes at Musharraf’s expense

February 19th, 2008 - 8:25 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Feb 19 (IANS) The smile is back on former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s face. Less than three months after his return from exile, he holds the key to the formation of the next government. He was relaxed and even cracked jokes with journalists - at Musharraf’s expense. He was seen in a cheerful mood for the first time since his government was ousted in a military coup in October 1999.

“I’ve nothing much to say… you people are better informed and know all. Many journalists were calling me, so I thought to share these exciting moments with you,” he said at the start of his press conference.

He was speaking after his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 65 seats in Monday’s elections to the 272-member National Assembly - second only to 86 seats won by slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

“I just want to thank Allah and the people of Pakistan over this victory,” he said with a blush and a smile.

Since his November return to the country after long years of exile, Sharif often looked tense and never was seen smiling in public.

President Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a bloodless coup and put him in jail Oct 12, 1999. In December 2000 he was sent into exile to Saudi Arabia from where in 2004 he shifted to London.

During his stay abroad he has put on weight and also got a hair transplant.

He made an attempt to return to the country in October last year but was bundled back to Saudi Arabia from the airport within hours. However, with the help of Saudi King Abdullah, he managed to come back Nov 25.

Working against time and under pressure, Sharif was able to reorganize his party despite alleged obstacles created by the former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid - a breakaway faction of his own party.

“We had to put in a lot of efforts to gain this position,” he told journalists while appreciating the media support for his party.

He faced all questions with a smile despite a tragedy in his family - his daughter Mariam lost her mother-in-law Monday night.

When journalists had exhausted their questions, one of them repeated the query as to how he would deal with Musharraf.

“I have already replied this question…I know you don’t have more questions… let me end (press conference) with a joke.”

“Someone asked a Sardar what was his age. He replied, 30. After 10 years he was asked again, ‘Sardarji, what’s your age?’ He said, 30. After another 10 years the same person once again asked his age and again he replied 30.

“‘Isn’t it strange that 30 years back you were 30 and still you are 30,’ the man asked and Sardar replied, ‘I don’t know but once I’ve said, I’ve said it… Whatever it is.’

“So I’ve said what I have to say,” Sharif said with a grin.

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