Ex-Pak PM Nawaz Sharif To Return Home Today After Four Years Of Self-Exile

Ex-Pak PM Nawaz Sharif To Return Home Today After Four Years Of Self-Exile
Ex-Pak PM Nawaz Sharif To Return Home Today After Four Years Of Self-Exile

In advance of the upcoming elections, three-time Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif will return home on Saturday after four years of self-imposed exile. There are overlapping political, economic, and security crises in the South Asian nation ahead of elections already pushed back to January 2024. Sharif’s primary opponent, Imran Khan, is imprisoned.

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“This is a time for hope and celebration. His return bodes well for Pakistan’s economy and its people,” said Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a senior leader of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

His supporters will gather for a welcome home rally in Lahore, after Sharif spends several days in Dubai. From Islamabad, Sharif will fly to Lahore.

The PML-N has been hyping Sharif’s return for months, hoping his political clout and “man of the soil” attitude will revive its flagging popularity.

Despite this, the former leader still faces a graft conviction and an unfinished prison sentence.

When Sharif lands back in Pakistan, he will no longer face immediate arrest, as the Islamabad High Court granted him protective bail until Tuesday.

The former prime minister was ousted from power in 2017 after being convicted of corruption and disqualified for life from politics.

In former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, he ignored subsequent court orders to return after serving less than a year of a seven-year sentence.

In the past year, his fortunes have changed since his brother Shehbaz Sharif came to power and changed the law to limit the disqualification of lawmakers from contesting elections to five years.

Sharif’s return has likely been smoothed by a deal between the military establishment and his party to prevent significant legal hurdles, said analyst Zahid Hussain.

In an interview with AFP, he said there was some sort of arrangement with the military establishment; without it, he wouldn’t have decided to return.

With a red Gucci scarf draped around his neck, Sharif’s political fortunes have been determined by his relationship with Pakistan’s military establishment — the country’s true kingmakers.

Right monitors say Pakistan’s powerful military, which has ruled the country directly for more than half of its history and continues to wield immense power, orchestrates legal proceedings against political figures.

He is known to parade big cats at extravagant political events drumming up support for his campaign as “the Lion of Punjab”, the eastern and most populous province where his support is strongest.

Khan’s political party has captured a young population and an electorate weary of dynastic politics.

Political analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said that Sharif’s main challenge is to establish himself and his party as viable alternatives to Imran Khan, who is already popular.

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