Three-time Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will return home on Saturday after four years of self-imposed exile, in a bid to make a political comeback ahead of elections. The South Asian nation is facing overlapping security, economic and political crises ahead of elections in January 2024, with Sharif’s primary rival, the hugely popular Imran Khan, jailed.
Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a senior leader of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, said, “This is a time of hope and celebration. “His return is a good sign for Pakistan’s economy and its people.”
Sharif has spent the past several days in Dubai and will fly from there to the capital Islamabad, then fly to Lahore, where his supporters will gather for a welcome rally, his party said.
His return has been speculated for months by the PML-N, whose leaders hope that Sharif’s political clout and “man of the soil” swag will revive its surging popularity.
However, the former leader has been convicted on corruption charges and his prison sentence remains incomplete.
Earlier this week, the Islamabad High Court granted protective bail to Sharif till Tuesday, ending the threat of immediate arrest upon his return to the country.
Sharif has been Prime Minister three timesBut he was ousted in 2017 after being found guilty of corruption and disqualified from politics for life.
He served less than a year of his seven-year sentence before receiving permission to seek medical care in the United Kingdom, ignoring subsequent court orders to return during the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
His fortunes changed when his brother Shehbaz Sharif came to power last year and his government made changes to the law, including limiting the disqualification of MPs from contesting elections to five years.
Analyst Zahid Hussain said Sharif’s return was made possible by an agreement between the military establishment and his party to circumvent significant legal hurdles.
“There was some kind of arrangement with the military establishment,” he told AFP; Without this he would not have decided to come back.”
Sharif, often draped in a red Gucci scarf, has seen his political fortunes rise and fall based on his connections with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment – the country’s true kingmakers.
Politicians in Pakistan are often embroiled in legal proceedings, which rights monitors say are orchestrated by the powerful military, which has ruled the country directly for more than half of its history and continues to enjoy immense power. Is.
Fans call him the “Lion of Punjab,” the eastern and most populous province where his support is strongest, and he is known to stage large demonstrations to garner support at extravagant political events.
But he faces a tough challenge of winning over voters tired of dynastic politics and a young population captured by Khan’s social-media-savvy party.
Political analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said, “Sharif’s main challenge is firstly to establish himself and his party as a viable alternative to Imran Khan, who is already popular, and secondly to bring about a turnaround in the economy “
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