Lawyers, supporters of former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, react after the Islamabad High Court granted protective bail to Sharif, in Islamabad, Pakistan, 19 October 2023. EFE-EPA/SOHAIL SHAHZAD

Nawaz Sharif’s return from exile accelerates Pakistan’s power race

Islamabad, Oct 20 (EFE).- Nawaz Sharif, a three-time former Prime Minister of Pakistan, is set to return home on Saturday after more than four years in exile.

His return is seen as a significant development in the lead-up to the next general elections, despite the possibility of his arrest.

Nawaz Sharif’s political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), anticipates a gathering of over a million supporters at the historic Minar-e-Pakistan ground in Lahore, as they welcome their leader, who will arrive via a flight from the United Arab Emirates.

After his four-year exile in the United Kingdom, he is making a comeback to secure a fourth term in the upcoming elections scheduled for January 2024.

The expectation is that Nawaz Sharif, 73, will reassume the leadership of the PML-N, which had been held by his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif.

In August, Shehbaz Sharif stepped down as prime minister after the conclusion of the parliamentary term, which paved the way for a caretaker government until the next elections.

Imran Khan, Sharif’s political rival, won the previous elections in July 2018. However, he had to step down from the government when he lost his parliamentary majority and was defeated in a vote of no confidence in April 2022.

In 2018, Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $10.6 million in a money laundering and corruption case related to his family’s acquisition of upscale Avenfield flats in London.

The conviction led to his removal from office.

Additionally, he received a seven-year prison sentence in a separate corruption case.

He was disqualified for life from participating in electoral politics and holding any public office within his center-right PML-N.

However, the disqualification period was later reduced to five years through a parliamentary act when his younger brother was the prime minister.

The Islamabad High Court has given Nawaz Sharif protective bail in anticipation of his return.

He traveled to the UK in 2019 for medical treatment after providing an undertaking to the court that he would return.

He consistently denied the charges against him and alleged that the powerful security establishment targeted him through legal proceedings.

He openly criticized the military for allegedly supporting his bete noire, Khan, who came to power in the 2018 general elections.

Khan is in jail and faces nearly 200 legal cases, including charges of sedition, terrorism, and murder.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has accused the Sharif brother of making a deal with the military to return to power for the fourth time in the upcoming general elections scheduled for January next year.

The Pakistani military has played an active role in the nation’s politics, with direct coups governing for almost half of Pakistan’s history.

However, the military denies involvement in the ousting of Nawaz Sharif in July 2017 or Khan in April of the following year. EFE