Zardari optimistic about post-Nawaz return scenario

ISLAMABAD   -   Pakistan People’s Party supremo Asif Ali Zardari is optimistic about the political scenario after the possible return of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Zardari has been a strong advocate of Nawaz Sharif’s return after he went to the United Kingdom in 2019 for medical treatment and never returned.  Before becoming allies to form a unity government this year, the PPP Co-Chairman had urged Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan if he wanted agitation against the then government led by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf. This demand lost steam after the PPP and the PML-N became coalition partners but Zardari still believes the senior Sharif must play a more active role in politics than being passive staying abroad.

This week, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Javed Latif – a Federal Minister – said Nawaz Sharif may be back in Pakistan as early as next month. The ailing Nawaz Sharif has been living in London since November 2019 for medical treatment after the high court allowed him a four-week reprieve. Sharif was serving seven-year imprisonment in the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia corruption case before his departure.

Prior to his exit, the now-Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had submitted an undertaking to the Lahore High Court ensuring his older brother would return “within four weeks or on certification by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return back to Pakistan.”

In August last year, Nawaz Sharif filed an appeal with the British Immigration Tribunal after the Home Department refused to extend his stay in the country on “medical grounds” any further. Nawaz Sharif can legally remain in the UK till the tribunal issues its decision on his plea for his stay in the country. Nawaz Sharif’s passport expired in February 2021. However, Shehbaz Sharif’s government issued a fresh passport to him in April this year.

Javed Latif claimed that the ‘doctors’ had announced their decision and Nawaz Sharif will be among the people in the country next month. “The doctors change their opinion with time. The people are his doctors; the nation has announced its decision that Nawaz Sharif should come back,” he added.

In 2018, an accountability court sentenced Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference, while he was also sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped a fine of Rs 1.3 billion in the Avenfield properties reference.

Subsequently, in 2019, the LHC after suspending his sentence, allowed Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment. He departed for London on November 19, 2019, and since then, he never returned to the country.

PTI chief Imran Khan has also predicted Nawaz Sharif’s return and believes that Sharif’s disqualification might be nullified to pave way for his participation in the 2023 general elections.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah , who is considered close to Nawaz Sharif, earlier said that “certain amendments” might be made through the parliament to undo the lifetime disqualification of the three-time premier.

Zardari’s close aides suggest he expected Sharif to return and become active in politics. The PPP supremo thinks  Sharif’s return will strengthen the PML-N and also improve the PPP chances in Punjab through the seat adjustment with the PML-N.

“Zardari sees better political scenario after Nawaz Sharif’s return. He is optimistic about the general elections with Nawaz Sharif participating,” said a close aide of the PPP Co-Chairman.

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