Islamabad: Former premier Nawaz Sharif kicked off the PML-N's election campaign in northwest Pakistan on Monday, pledging to carry out 'economic explosions' on the lines of the nuclear tests of 1998 if his party is voted to power.
"We conducted the atomic blasts in Pakistan and this time, we have to carry out economic explosions for the people," he told a gathering of tens of thousands at a stadium at Mansehra in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
"Just like the nuclear blasts made us an atomic power, economic explosions during our next term will turn Pakistan into an economic powerhouse," said Sharif, whose party is one of the frontrunners for the general election scheduled for May 11.
The nuclear tests of 1998 are often touted by the PML-N leadership as one of the greatest achievements of Sharif's second stint as Prime Minister.
Sharif's government was ousted in a coup led by former army chief Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Though Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was ruled till recently by the Awami National Party, Mansehra is considered a stronghold of the PML-N.
Sharif's party is expected to remain the key player in the central province of Punjab and his decision to launch the election campaign in the northwest is being seen as part of efforts by the PML-N to reach out to voters in other regions of the country.
The stadium in Mansehra was decorated with huge portraits of Sharif and banners that read "Tiger of Pakistan, we love you" and "Welcome Prime Minister of Pakistan ".
A caged tiger and a caged lion were part of the rally. Addressing the enthusiastic crowd, Sharif said his two tenures as Prime Minister were cut short by certain elements but this had only increased the miseries of the people.
He said he would have changed Pakistan's destiny if he had remained in power for 10 years. "I was not allowed to govern for more than two years, and yet the motorway was built and Pakistan became an atomic power," he said.
"The people should be wary of conjurers who are trying to lead them down the wrong path. They should not let themselves be fooled by these tricksters and they should use the power of their vote wisely," he said.
Sharif warned that if the PML-N was not elected, problems like terrorism, power outages and an economic crisis would become worse.