Last Updated: August 14, 2023, 09:47 IST
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan was considered imminent after the ouster of Imran Khan from power in April last year. However, lo and behold, more than a year has passed, yet there is no official announcement from his party.
Nawaz Sharif left Pakistan in November 2019 for medical treatment in London and has remained there since in a self-imposed exile. Over the last year, at several points, some of his party leaders claimed that the senior Sharif and PMLN supremo is “coming back to Pakistan next month”. In recent months, speculation and anticipation of his have increased even more.
When he reached Dubai in the month of June, hopes were raised within the party about his potential return, given Dubai’s proximity to Pakistan. Rana Sanaullah, a prominent figure within the party, sent out a letter in mid-July to PML-N presidents and divisional secretaries, instructing them to prepare for Nawaz Sharif’s return.
“Whenever the leadership sets a date, the preparations for Mian Nawaz Sharif’s return should be complete and caravans should come from the union council level,” the letter read, according to Dawn newspaper.
However, no definitive date materialised, and Nawaz Sharif subsequently left Dubai for a break in Europe before returning to London this month. A PML-N insider expressed concerns about Nawaz Sharif’s health and the potential risks associated with his return, particularly given his age, medical history, and existing health conditions.
Expected September Return
Statements from various party members added to the speculation. Khawaja Asif indicated that Nawaz Sharif’s return was likely in September, while outgoing Prime Minister and Nawaz’s younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, affirmed his return around the same time.
According to Dawn, the timing of Nawaz Sharif’s return seems to hinge on several factors, notably the announcement of the general election schedule and the progression of legal cases he is involved in. Party sources link his potential return to these key developments.
Although the date of September 16 has been mentioned in relation to Nawaz Sharif’s return, it is tied to the retirement of Justice Umar Ata Bandial, whom Nawaz Sharif has criticised and whom the party believes might not favor leniency in the cases against him.
Nawaz Sharif’s legal situation further complicates matters. Designated as an absconder by the high court, his return raises questions about potential legal proceedings, including the possibility of serving a sentence under house arrest.
In the past, the return of Nawaz has been viewed as crucial for the PML-N party’s prospects in upcoming elections, believed to invigorate the party’s base and energize workers. A senior party member emphasised the significance of Nawaz Sharif’s physical presence in galvanising both the party and voters.
As the situation stands, discussions on Nawaz Sharif’s return and its implications appear to be ongoing within the party. Despite the expectations, a specific date for Nawaz Sharif’s return and the involvement of senior party leaders in this matter are still unclear.