Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s scheduled return to the cash-strapped country from London will provide a healing touch to the politically polarised nation as well as offer leadership to all institutions to work in harmony, top PML-N leaders have said.
On Tuesday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party announced that its supremo Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan on October 21, ending his over four-year self-imposed exile in the UK.
The planned return of the three-time former prime minister was announced by his younger brother and ex-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is currently in London.Nawaz, 73, had left for London in November 2019 after the Lahore High Court granted him four-week permission allowing him to go abroad for his treatment. But he never returned to Pakistan where he was convicted of corruption and jailed.“We are really looking forward to his return,” Ahsan Iqbal, Secretary General of PML-N was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.“The country needs healing, the country needs a collective effort, and it is only a statesman like Nawaz Sharif who can reach out to all political groups and provide leadership to all institutions to work in harmony. Pakistan needs synergy,” he said.
PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, who is in London and met Nawaz on Tuesday, is well aware of the challenges that will face his leader as he returns. He also knows that the former prime minister Imran Khan was still popular in Pakistan though he is in jail.
“But I believe in the Nawaz Sharif effect. His return will make a difference. He will engage people, he will connect with them and hopefully to some extent eradicate the hatred that has been injected into our politics.”
Asif said Nawaz Sharif will challenge his lifetime disqualification in the courts.
Iqbal also said that there is no easy solution to the country’s challenges.
“Right now, no one has a magic wand. The important thing is that Nawaz Sharif has unified the country in the past to fight terrorism through the National Action Plan, he will have to do the same for an economic National Action Plan.”
Nawaz Sharif was convicted in the Al-Azizia Mills and Avenfield corruption cases in 2018. He was serving a seven-year imprisonment at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail in the Al-Azizia Mills case before he was allowed to proceed to London in 2019 on “medical grounds”.
Shehbaz, 71, has previously said that Nawaz will be the next prime minister if the party returns to power in the general elections.
In 2016, Nawaz Sharif stepped down as the prime minister after the Supreme Court disqualified him for life for concealing assets. His appeals against the conviction are currently pending in the relevant courts.
He was disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2017. In 2018, he became ineligible to hold public office for life after a Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.
He was expected to come back when his party came to power after Imran Khan was toppled in April last year but the expectation was not fulfilled.
However, his PML-N party maintained that he would come back before the election and lead the party. Sharif is considered a crowd-puller and a major force to bring voters to the polling stations.
Pakistan’s economy has been in a free fall mode for the last many years, bringing untold pressure on the poor masses in the form of unchecked inflation, making it almost impossible for a vast number of people to make ends meet. Their woes increased manyfold after last year’s catastrophic floods that killed more than 1,700 people and caused massive economic losses.
The economic situation has never been so grim in a country which since independence has thrice seen military coups and the ouster of elected governments.