Reports are emerging that the PML-N government is considering relevant legislation to facilitate the return of the party’s supreme leader Mr. Nawaz Sharif. The return of Mr. Sharif has been the subject of speculation for a long time now, and while there have been reports of his imminent return on a number of times in the recent past, it appears that there is a concerted effort to make this happen before the general elections commence.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has stated that the coalition government could potentially make certain amendments that would help repeal the ban imposed on Mr Sharif by a Supreme Court judgement in the Panama Papers case. Undoing the lifetime ban would pave the path for Mr. Sharif’s return, but the introduction of this legislation would be linked to the outcome of the Supreme Court Bar Association’s petition in the apex court challenging lifetime ban on politicians.

What is evident is the fact that the party leadership has realised that the newer faces of the party are unable to resonate and gain sufficient traction with the voters on the ground. The defeat in by-polls in Punjab has further consolidated this view within the party. Therefore, the unanimous view is that the party needs Mr. Nawaz Sharif to be in Pakistan ahead of the polls if it wants to score a victory.

While the PTI has given a one-month ultimatum to the government to announce a date for early elections in the country, PM Shehbaz Sharif has rejected this demand stating that the polls will be held next year, as per schedule. If this timeline is observed, it will allow the PML-N more time and space to facilitate the return of its supreme leader. One thing is for certain however, political tensions and agitation will rise further in the meantime given the current levels of polarisation and discord in the political system. Furthermore, it is imperative that any legislative amendment is pursued by achieving consensus among all the key political stakeholders considering the implications it will have down the road.