Home » Latest World News, Pakistan » Sharif promises economic revival at huge Mansehra rally

nawaz_mansehra_rallyMarking the launch of his election campaign, Nawaz Sharif promised development and economic revival at a huge rally in the northwestern town of Mansehra, a Pakistan Muslim League-N stronghold, where tens of thousand of his supporters packed a huge stadium.

Police officials estimated the crowd at up to 30,000.

The large turnout confirmed the former two-time prime minister’s position as a frontrunner in the race to general elections on May 11, which will mark the country’s first democratic transition of power.

“Last time we carried out nuclear explosions. Now we will carry out economic explosions,” Sharif told the crowd.

Pakistan became a nuclear power in May 1998 during Sharif’s second term as prime minister. He was ousted by military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf the following year.

Sharif ordered a bullet-proof screen around his podium to be removed, a move greeted with loud applause.

But security was extremely tight with police commandos patrolling with AK-47s and a buffer zone ringed with barbed wire around the stage.

As premier, Sharif earned praise for economic reforms and for building a motorway from the northwestern city of Peshawar to Lahore in the east.

He promised that if his party was elected a third time, he would build a motorway from Lahore to Karachi, Pakistan’s business capital.

“I am not fond of power, I only want to see my country progressing and my people prosper,” he told the crowd.

The stadium in Mansehra was decorated with large portraits of Sharif and banners reading “Tiger of Pakistan, we love you” and “Welcome prime minister of Pakistan, pride of Pakistan”.

The PML-N’s election symbol is a tiger and the rally featured a live tiger in a cage.

Mohammad Afzal, a student aged 18, told news agency AFP he would vote for Sharif.

“Only he can save us from loadshedding (chronic power cuts) and control inflation,” Afzal said.

Sharif first became prime minister in 1990 but was sacked three years later on corruption charges.

He returned to power in 1997 after an election but was ousted in the 1999 coup by Musharraf and was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000.

He returned in November 2007 just before the February 2008 general election, won by the PPP on a wave of support following the assassination of its leader Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.

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