Three-time Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned home today after four years of self-imposed exile, and is primed to make a political comeback ahead of elections. 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.
Pakistan is facing overlapping security, economic and political crises ahead of polls already pushed back to January 2024, with Sharif’s primary opponent, the fiercely popular Imran Khan, languishing in jail.
“This is a time for hope and celebration. His return bodes well for Pakistan’s economy and its people,” said Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a senior leader of PML-N.
More than 7,000 police have been enlisted to control crowds expected at the Greater Iqbal Park where his homecoming rally is due later.
The return has been touted for months by the PML-N, whose leaders hope Sharif’s political clout and “man of the soil” swagger will revive its flagging popularity.
The last term of Sharif — who came to power riding on a triumphant victory in 2013 — was scarred by upheavals. It started with the then-opposition-led months-long blockade of Islamabad and ended with his disqualification by the Supreme Court in 2017. The court ruling followed months of hearings in a case instigated by the “Panama Papers” leaks, related to alleged corruption during his previous two terms in office.
Earlier this week, the Islamabad High Court granted protective bail to Sharif until Tuesday, removing the threat of immediate arrest when he lands back in the country.