Party spokesperson says PML-N supreme leader will focus on public issues upon his return in October

LAHORE:

Upon his return to Pakistan in October, ahead of the upcoming general elections, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will not adopt an anti-establishment stance. This assurance was provided by PML-N spokesperson for the Punjab province, Azma Bukhari, on Sunday.

“Nawaz Sharif’s narrative will not be against anyone. It will certainly not resemble the narrative of the deposed prime minister Imran Khan, who continually criticizes state institutions.

“The PML-N supreme leader will aim to educate the people about the ground realities and lead the nation out of the existing crises,” Azma stated. “Nawaz Sharif knows a lot [of secrets] but he prioritizes national interests above all else.”

Nawaz Sharif was serving a seven-year sentence in a corruption case when he was granted rare permission to receive medical treatment abroad in view of a debilitating medical condition in October 2019, during the rule of the PTI party.

 

He flew to London on November 19, 2019, in an air ambulance and has not returned to the country since, as he would be arrested and sent to jail upon landing.

Nawaz’s younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, who also served as the country’s premier after the ouster of the PTI government in April 2022, recently announced that the PML-N supreme leader would finally return in October this year, ahead of the general elections, the schedule of which is yet to be issued.

PML-N leader Saif Ul Malook Khokhar has reportedly stated that Nawaz Sharif will land in Lahore on October 15, and “one million” PML-N supporters will receive him at the airport.

Azma also confirmed that Nawaz will return in October to lead the party’s election campaign. The polls are just around the corner, and there is limited room to modify his programme, she said.

 

As the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is apparently expediting the process of delimitation, hopes of timely elections have rekindled. In light of this, a section in the PML-N believes that it is an ideal time for Nawaz’s return to Pakistan.

However, several party leaders are against this idea, as they believe that Nawaz Sharif’s return will once again bring the PML-N under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

A former MNA stated that he was among the party leaders who believed that Nawaz’s return to the country was necessary to revive the former ruling party. However, he said the situation has changed, and the return of the PML-N leader now would be counterproductive.

 

“People are frustrated with all political parties right now. All political parties have let them down. They are also not ready to listen to criticism of Imran Khan. Our supporters might feel reenergized by Nawaz’s return, but otherwise, there would be a growing sense of resentment.”

He suggested that the party should postpone Nawaz’s return until the economic crisis subsides.

“Only then should we bring Nawaz Sharif into the picture. If Nawaz returns and is granted bail, people will perceive it as a ‘fixed match’ between the new Chief Justice of Pakistan and the PML-N.”

“But if Mian Sahib is denied bail, the party will be forced to take an offensive stance, which will once again shift the focus to the PML-N. In such times, parties should maintain a low profile and avoid becoming their own enemies,” he said.

A former PML-N MPA maintained Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan would be a positive development for the PML-N. He said in the political arena, his return would mark the reentry of a heavyweight who could counterbalance the advances made by other parties in Punjab, the country’s most populous province. However, he cautioned that it remains to be seen what roadmap Nawaz will offer for the country.

“People want results. If we have a viable action plan, that’s excellent. But if we lack an action plan, the reentry of Nawaz at this stage may end up being counterproductive.”

Azma vehemently dismissed this impression, asserting that Nawaz Sharif is the only hope for Pakistan. She argued that people recognize that only Nawaz can turn things around. “We do not deny the economic challenges the country faces, but these are primarily the consequence of the PTI’s four-year rule.”

She emphasized that everyone in the party must acknowledge that only Nawaz Sharif is the face of the party. “People must also remember that when the PTI-led government reneged on the agreed terms with the IMF, the lender imposed more stringent and harsher conditions. Therefore, not all blame can be placed at the feet of the PML-N,” she added.

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