Nawaz Sharif’s Highly Anticipated Return to Pakistan Set for October 21

After spending four years in voluntary exile, Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is scheduled to make a triumphant return to his hometown of Lahore on October 21, 2023, as confirmed by his brother, Shehbaz Sharif. This highly anticipated decision was officially announced in London, where Nawaz has been residing, following extensive discussions within the party leadership.

While preparations are underway for a grand welcome to Nawaz Sharif, he is well aware of the formidable challenges awaiting him upon his return. Pakistan is grappling with a multitude of complex issues, encompassing political transformations, economic concerns, and security dilemmas. Nawaz acknowledges that the political landscape has evolved during his absence, and the PML-N, his political party, has faced setbacks in his prolonged absence.

Over the past four years, senior PML-N figures have frequently shuttled between Pakistan and London to seek Nawaz’s counsel on pivotal political matters. Even during the tenure of Shehbaz Sharif, who also held the office of Prime Minister, visits to London for consultations with his elder brother were a regular occurrence.

Nawaz Sharif’s departure to London in December 2019 was initially motivated by health reasons, following a temporary travel allowance granted by the Lahore High Court. During this period, Nawaz was entangled in legal disputes, notably being found guilty in the Al Azizia corruption case, although he had secured bail concerning the London flats allegations.

Now, as his return coincides with upcoming elections, Nawaz faces a labyrinth of legal challenges. The London flats case, in which his daughter and son-in-law were acquitted, still looms over him, pending resolution in the Islamabad High Court. Additionally, the Al-Azizia case verdict remains unresolved. His status as a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhanna case is a result of his failure to appear in court despite non-bailable arrest warrants. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s lifetime disqualification from holding public office still stands. Currently, he is legally designated as a proclaimed offender due to his seven-year sentence in the Al-Azizia reference.

The question of whether Nawaz will be incarcerated upon his return or devise a strategy to evade it remains unanswered. Nevertheless, his impending return marks a watershed moment in Pakistan’s political terrain, and his subsequent actions are eagerly anticipated by both his party members and steadfast supporters.