LONDON - Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif Friday said that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan in October. Speaking to reporters, Shehbaz Sharif, who is also PML-N President, said that the senior leadership after intensive deliberations here decided that Nawaz Sharif would be in Pakistan in October to lead the party's election campaign.
Flanked by Nawaz Sharif and others, Shehbaz Sharif alleged that the former prime minister Imran Khan had ruined the economy, besides straining diplomatic relations with other countries. He said that the assemblies were dissolved in accordance with the law, and now the responsibility rested with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conduct elections in a free and fair manner. The PML-N would fully back the ECP as a political party in discharging its duties, he added.
Nawaz flanked Shehbaz and listened quietly as the latter made the announcement. Shehbaz did not specify a date when Nawaz would return. However, a private News channel, citing informed sources, reported that the elder Sharif’s date of return would be October 15. Earlier, PML-N Senator Afnanullah Khan had said “no date has been finalised as yet”. Shehbaz landed at Heathrow earlier this week to meet his elder brother, discuss key political developments in the run-up to the general election and set a date for the party supremo’s return to Pakistan.
The elder Sharif departed the country in November 2019 for medical treatment following his conviction in a corruption case. He has not returned since and faces multiple cases in Pakistan. He was deemed an absconder the following February. Later in 2020, courts declared him as a proclaimed offender. Earlier this month, reports of Nawaz’s impending return once again started making the rounds, but no official announcement was made from the PML-N supremo himself.
Over the last year, especially since the ouster of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and the change at the helm in April 2022, at several points, some PML-N leaders claimed that the senior Sharif is “coming back to Pakistan next month”. On Aug 10, in response to a question by an anchor, Shehbaz had said Nawaz would return in September.
Meanwhile, media reports said senior leaders and legal brains in the party had been deliberating for the past few days over the timing of Nawaz’s return and the cases he is facing in Pakistan. Talking to reporters alongside his brother in London today, Shehbaz said: “All of you know that Nawaz Sharif’s name was not there in Panama [papers] … he was included [in the investigation] through a conspiracy and no action was taken against other people whose names were actually there in Panama [papers].
“Nawaz Sharif will, God willing, come to Pakistan and face the law, there are no two opinions on it.”
‘PML-N to fully facilitate ECP for elections’
In response to a question on whether current and former judges would be punished, the PML-N president said transparent accountability was the need of the hour and should be held “across the board”.
“Without it, Pakistan cannot move forward.”
On elections, Shehbaz asserted that his party had dissolved assemblies as per the “spirit of the Constitution”.
“After this, it is the legal and constitutional responsibility of the chief election commissioner to hold elections. Our party, on the instructions of Mian Nawaz Sharif, held a meeting with the Election Commission of Pakistan today. “And it is certain that as a political party, we will fully facilitate the ECP for free, fair and transparent elections,” he added. Shehbaz also decried that “fake cases” were made against him and his elder brother during the PTI tenure, adding that their political victimisation came forth to the world when they were granted clean chits by the courts.
“Now Mian sahib will come to Pakistan in October and lead the election campaign,” he added.
Shehbaz also criticised a sitting Supreme Court judge for what he characterised as showing undue concern for PTI chief Imran Khan while not having the same sentiments for his brother and his niece.