Lahore: Former premier Nawaz Sharif on Sunday criticised the Pakistan government's handling of crucial issues like the US raid against Osama bin Laden and a secret memo purportedly seeking American help to prevent a military takeover, saying the ruling party was compromising the country's defence and dignity.

Addressing a gathering of tens of thousands of workers of his PML-N party at Faisalabad, about 130-km from Lahore, Sharif slammed the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) for compromising the country's defence and dignity.

He also attacked cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, which has been garnering support across Punjab province.

"There is an attack on Abbottabad and they were all shaking in their boots," Sharif said, referring to the US military raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the northern garrison town.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described the covert operation as a "great victory" while President Asif Ali Zardari wrote articles in American newspapers lauding it, he said.

In a reference to the "Memogate" controversy that has shaken up the country's political and diplomatic circles, Sharif claimed Pakistani envoy Husain Haqqani had written a memorandum to former US military chief Mike Mullen, seeking help to rein in the Pakistani military.

"Zardari’s envoy is asking the US to control the Pakistani military when we should resolve our own problems," he said, as his supporters shouted slogans like "Go Zardari Go".

He demanded that the government should launch a probe into the controversial memo within two days and complete it in nine days, failing which the PML-N would approach the

Supreme Court to investigate the matter. Haqqani has denied allegations that he played a role in drafting or delivering the secret memorandum to Mullen.

However, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz has named the envoy as the Pakistani official who asked him to draft the memo in the wake of the US raid against bin Laden.

Without naming Imran, Sharif criticised him for saying in a recent interview to the Indian media that the Kashmir dispute should be set aside for resolution in future.

"We can do other things (to improve relations with India), but we can’t put Kashmir on the backburner. It is a question of Pakistan’s sovereignty," he said.

The PML-N would not compromise on Pakistan's sovereignty but the party will end the meddling of intelligence agencies in politics, Sharif said.

At the same time, he accused President Zardari of "selling out" the country's sovereignty and compromising on its dignity.

The PML-N's rally was projected as a riposte to a large gathering of over 100,000 people addressed by Imran in Lahore last month.

That meeting had added to the PML-N’s concerns about the increase in support for Imran in Punjab, the country’s most populous and politically crucial province.

During his speech, Sharif resorted to his favourite tactic of listing the PML-N’s past achievements, such as winning the praise of the then Indian premier for economic reforms undertaken in the 1990s and the party’s rejection of USD five billion in aid from US in exchange for not carrying out nuclear tests in 1998.

Sharif said he had never bowed before foreign powers as he preferred to protect the national interest by conducting six atomic blasts in response to India's five.

"Despite pressure mounted by the US and receiving phone calls from (then) President Bill Clinton, I decided to carry out the atomic tests. We are the party that has never bowed before any foreign power," he said.

He accused the PPP-led government of surrendering its sovereignty to foreign powers.

"Zardari sahab, due to you, the country's sovereignty is at stake and you are duty bound to get the memo issue investigated,” he added.
Sharif invited Imran to join him in approaching the Supreme Court to expose those have hidden assets outside Pakistan.

"We had no hidden assets as we have disclosed everything honestly and if (Imran Khan) wants to get this issue probed, he should meet me to take up this issue in court," he said.

He said the PML-N had closed the doors for intelligence agencies to meddle in politics.

The party workers should not prepare for elections as the PML-N would do its best to bring in a positive and constitutional change to put Pakistan on the road to prosperity, he added.

(Agencies)