Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif has returned home after four years of his exile in London. The 73-year-old veteran politician will soon address a mive rally in his eastern hometown Lahore. His supporters have decorated the city with his photographs and flags of his party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) or PML-N. The return of Pakistan’s thrice-elected former prime minister comes as the South Asian country grapples with a harsh economic and political crisis. Why did Nawaz Sharif leave? What does his return mean for Pakistan?
Nawaz Sharif’s punishment
Sharif never completed his multiple terms as PM of Pakistan. In 1993, he was dismissed on corruption charges. He returned to the post of prime minister in 1997, but was removed two years later after differences with Pakistan’s powerful military. His third term ended in 2017 when the Supreme Court of Pakistan banned him from politics for life on corruption charges related to the Panama Papers scandal. While serving a 14-year jail sentence on corruption charges, Sharif moved to London in 2019 for treatment and has never set foot in Pakistan till now. Earlier this week the High Court in Islamabad granted protective bail to Sharif till October 24, preventing authorities from arresting him if he lands in the country.
What did the ‘Lion of Punjab’ say before returning?
According to the ociated Press (AP), Sharif, known as the ‘Lion of Punjab’ by his fans, told reporters before leaving for Islamabad from Dubai that today I am going to Pakistan after four years and I feel very happy. Sharif said that there is still hope and we should not let it go because we are capable of fixing it. According to Anadolu Agency, the PML-N supremo last month accused former Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI spy chief Faiz Hameed, former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and another retired Supreme Court judge of ousting him from power in 2017 .
Why does Nawaz Sharif’s return matter?
According to The Diplomat, Nawaz Sharif’s return “symbolizes the possibility of political normalcy” in Pakistan. The country has been in political turmoil since Sharif’s main rival Imran Khan was removed as Pakistan’s PM in a no-confidence vote in April 2022. There is turmoil. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief is currently in jail after being convicted and sentenced to three years in a corruption case. Despite this, Khan enjoys overwhelming support from the public and He is currently considered to be Pakistan’s most popular politician. Sharif’s main challenge will be to garner this support from Khan for his cause.