Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif returns home after four years in self-imposed exile in the U.K.

“The 73-year-old PML-N supremo will fly in from Dubai to Islamabad on a chartered plane,” former Finance Minister and PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar said.

October 21, 2023 12:10 pm | Updated 02:30 pm IST - Dubai/Islamabad

Nawaz Sharif. File

Nawaz Sharif. File | Photo Credit: AP

Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned home on Saturday on a special flight from Dubai after a four-year self-imposed exile in the UK to head his party and try to secure a record fourth term in the general elections expected to be held in January.

The 73-year-old Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo flew in from Dubai to Islamabad on the chartered flight “Umeed-e-Pakistan” along with some family members, senior party leaders and friends.

Ahead of his return to Pakistan after four years, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on October 21 deplored the "very chaotic" situation back home and expressed confidence that his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party was "competent" to take the cash-strapped country out of the present crisis.

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“The 73-year-old PML-N supremo will fly in from Dubai to Islamabad on a chartered plane,” former Finance Minister and PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar said.

“After staying an hour or so in Islamabad, he will leave for Lahore to address a rally at Minar-i-Pakistan,” Mr. Dar told journalists on October 20.

Talking to reporters at the Dubai airport, he deplored the existing situation of the country which in his words was far worse than in 2017 when he was disqualified by the Supreme Court and later convicted by an accountability court in two cases of corruption.

“The situation is not better than 2017...and it pains me to see all this that our country has gone back instead of going forward,” he said, adding that it was time to think about why the country came to the situation.

“The situation in Pakistan is very chaotic and that is very worrying,” Nawaz was quoted as saying by Geo News. “We are competent enough to solve the problems of the country,” he said before his departure from Dubai airport.

“People are suffering in Pakistan and it is painful but there is hope that we can improve the situation. We created the mess and only we can fix the situation.” When asked about the elections, he said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was empowered to decide the date of the elections.

Talking about his fate after his conviction in 2017, he said that he left everything to God and that he was successfully returning to Pakistan.

The reason Nawaz is arriving in Islamabad instead of Lahore is that his touchdown in the capital was necessary to make bail, earlier granted by the Islamabad High Court on Thursday, the Dawn newspaper reported.

“Putting up an emphatic show for the homecoming of Nawaz Sharif is very important to tell everyone around that the PML-N still is a popular party in Lahore, which was once its citadel,” a PML-N leader from Punjab said.

“And the party leadership here will succeed in it, as a lot more is at stake in this regard.” He said Nawaz’s arrival would give a much-needed impetus to the party at a time when the country was heading for general elections in January. “He will lead the party polls campaign and become the premier for the fourth time,” he said.

In Lahore, the PML-N leadership, including Shehbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz, spent a busy day on Friday to ensure that caravans of the party workers from Balochistan, Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan left for Lahore and those who have to come from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab will leave on Satur­day morning.

Even though the party has an ambitious target of assembling one million people, the organisers on Friday placed only 10,000 chairs. Thousands of Punjab police officials, both in uniform and plain clothes, will perform security duties in and outside the venue.

The PML-N has also categorically told ticket aspirants that their candidature may not be considered if they fail to meet the required target of bringing people to the venue on Saturday, the Dawn report said. According to the party, only Nawaz will speak at the public meeting. The PML-N has also hired two small aircraft to shower rose petals in Lahore on Saturday.

Nawaz left for London in Nove­m­ber 2019 on medical grounds after a higher court granted him bail for four weeks. By that time, he had served half of his seven-year jail term in the Al-Azizia corruption case.

During the four years since then, Nawaz was declared a proclaimed offender in Al-Azizia and Avenfield corruption cases for his continuous absence from the proceedings on appeals against the sentences.

The Islamabad High Court on Thursday granted him protective bail until October 24 in both cases after NAB did not oppose the petitions filed by him.

He stepped down as Pakistan's Prime Minister in 2017 after he was disqualified for life from holding public office by the Supreme Court after a probe into his family's wealth following the 2016 Panama Papers leak. Nawaz Sharif has consistently denied any wrongdoing and termed it as a politically motivated case.

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