When will Nawaz Sharif return to Pakistan?

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 12:23 PM, 25 Sep, 2021
When will Nawaz Sharif return to Pakistan?
File photo.

When will former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif return to Pakistan from London? 

Three versions are being marketed by the PML-N at present. 

Sources very close to the party’s supreme leader link his return to Pakistan with the fresh elections.  

However, MNA from Sheikhupura Mian Javed Lateef, who is trying to win the hearts of the Sharif family by supporting them on every subject, claimed recently that the party’s supreme leader will be back home by the end of the current years. 

This means Mr Sharif’s return is only a few months away.  

The legislator also claims that the very powers that had sent the former prime minister abroad are trying to bring him back to revive the dead economy.  

There are also indications that the former premier may give his adversaries a surprise by announcing his return home any time. 

The former prime minister had been convicted by an accountability court on July 6, 2018 and jailed for seven years in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference. He was, however, acquitted in a second reference related to Flagship Investments. 

The court also fined Mr Sharif Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million in the Al-Azizia reference. 

Under the order Mr Sharif is also disqualified for any public office for 10 years. The disqualification will go into effect following his release from jail after serving the seven-year sentence. 

It was on November 10, 2020 when an accountability court in Lahore declared Mr Sharif an absconder and issued non-bailable arrest warrants against him in an illegal plot allotment case. 

The judge also ordered the confiscation of the PML-N supremo’s properties. 

The court directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the provincial revenue department to submit a report on the confiscation. 

It was on Nov 19, 2019 that Mr Sharif left for London, 20 days after he was released on bail rom a seven-year sentence for corruption. 

The departure was the result of a lengthy medical process of check-ups that led the government to believe that the life of the former prime minister is in danger. 

The PML-N supremo, diagnosed with an immune system disorder, was accompanied by his brother Shehbaz Sharif and his personal physician Dr Adnan Khan.  

After the passage of so many months and as a result of the medical treatment whose details have not been disclosed so far, the former premier appears healthier from his pictures of his address to various gatherings through video-link. But his party leaders insist that he will not return home unless doctors issued him a clean bill of health. 

Apparently, Mr Sharif’s return to Pakistan will be a political decision, having nothing to with his health. 

If the return is linked to fresh elections, then it will not be possible for another couple of years as the exercise is due in 2023. 

A few weeks ago, a credible newspaper had reported that the government is thinking of holding general elections about a year before the completion of its mandated five-year term. It was claimed that July-August 2022 could be the months of elections. 

However, now the situation appears to have changed. 

Federal ministers Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry have been quoted as saying that the next elections will be held on the basis of new census and fresh delimitation of constituencies in the light of new population figures. This is certainly a lengthy exercise.  

Controversies regarding new electoral reforms and the proposed use of EVMs are yet to be settled. 

This implies that new balloting will not be possible before the PTI government completes its constitutional term. 

On the other hand, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, foreseeing early elections, has directed his party organizations at all levels to get ready for the exercise.  

The PPP being a former ruling party has its own sources of information. 

Why will Bilawal involve the party in a futile exercise if there is no possibility of early elections? 

Equally important is the relevance of conventions being organized by the PML-N, which are also being addressed by Mr Sharif. 

If premature elections are not in sight, there is little justification for girding up loins when the stream is far away. 

There is another point worth considering at this stage. 

Recently there were reports that the PML-N is trying to mend fences with the establishment. 

The ties between the PML-N and the establishment had turned adversarial when the former prime minister launched frontal attacks on the incumbent army chief and the ISI head. 

However, the latest statement attributed to PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz indicates that there is no shift in the party’s thinking about the military leadership. 

She has been quoted as saying that she had played no role in the enactment of a law that set the term of the army chief. She said she stood vindicated on this front. 

Apparently, the situation remains unclear and nobody is in a position to predict the developments that are likely to unfold in the times ahead.