• Shehbaz Sharif’s statement comes after PML-N meeting in London.
  • PML-N spox says Nawaz to be warmly welcomed upon his return.
  • Nawaz has been in self-imposed exile in London since Nov 2019.


 

LONDON: In a major development, former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has revealed the date for his elder brother and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan ahead of the upcoming elections to lead the party’s political campaign in the country.

“Nawaz Sharif will reach Pakistan on October 21,” Shehbaz told Geo News on Tuesday.

The statement came after a meeting of the PML-N’s top leadership headed by Nawaz in London.

Nawaz — who has been in self-imposed exile in London since November 2019 owing to health reasons — was disqualified for life in 2017 by the Supreme Court for not declaring a receivable salary.

While speaking to the media after the high-level party huddle in London, Shehbaz said that the date for Nawaz’s return was finalised after consultation with the party members.

He added that the credit for Pakistan’s attainment of nukes, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the ending 20 hours of electricity load-shedding in the country “goes to Nawaz”.

“Nawaz returned with thanks the package which was offered to him for not making Pakistan a nuclear power, saying that Pakistan’s interest was much more than $5 billion,” Shehbaz further said.

If the momentum of Pakistan’s progress in the industrial and other sectors during the period from 2013 to 2018 hadn’t broken with the flawed elections of 2018, the PML-N president said, the country would have been much ahead in the field of development.

He went on to say that the journey of development will continue from where Nawaz had left in 2017 when he was removed from power under a false and baseless case. “Nawaz wasn’t deprived of power but Pakistan’s people were deprived of development and prosperity.”

When asked about the PML-N’s stance if the elections are not conducted on time, the former premier said that holding polls is the Election Commission of Pakistan’s constitutional responsibility and he hopes that the electoral watchdog will fulfil its responsibility fairly.

The London meeting was attended by Suleman Shehbaz, Hassan Nawaz, former federal minister Khawaja Asif, Malik Mohammad Ahmed Khan and Nasir Janjua. The party’s strategy regarding the election, Nawaz’s return and the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) stance on the elections came under discussion.

Both Nawaz and Asif condemned Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Atta Bandial while speaking to media, and accused him of making decisions under the influence of his mother-in-law who is a vocal PTI supporter and whose audio leak caused sensation in Pakistan.

When asked about the legacy of CJP Bandial, who retires in four days, Nawaz said that his legacy will be defined by his “mother-in-law”.

Meanwhile, Asif said: “Bandial will forever be known as a pro-Imran judge. He destroyed the reputation of judiciary through his tainted decisions. He joins the league of disreputable figures like Justice Nasim Hassan Shah, Asif Saeed Khosa, Saqib Nisar, Azmat Saeed. Umar Atta Bandial shamelessly and blatantly violated the constitution of Pakistan. The history will never forgive him.”

He said Bandial is blackmailed and succumbed to pressure and made decisions accordingly.

Meanwhile, former federal minister and party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also confirmed Shehbaz’s statement on in a post on microblogging site X.

“Important statement of former prime minister and president of PML-N Shehbaz Sharif — the architect of Pakistan and the leader of the people Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will return home on October 21,”

She also said that the PML-N supremo would be warmly welcomed upon his return.

Last week, Nawaz himself for the first time confirmed his homecoming next month, during his interaction with his party workers and supporters at Stanhope House.

Earlier, PML-N President Shehbaz also said that his brother would be returning in October. “Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan in October and lead the election campaign and this has been decided after the PML-N party consultations,” he had said, adding that the ex-premier would face the law of the land when he is back in Pakistan.

Previously, Geo News reported that Nawaz would return to Pakistan by mid-September, however, there has been a change of plan in the last few days after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced that elections are not possible within 90 days.

The decision to return around mid-October was taken after Shehbaz held two meetings with the PML-N supremo in the United Kingdom’s capital city, after his arrival in London on August 20 following handing over the reins of the government to Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar.

The PML-N leaders have repeatedly mentioned Nawaz’s homecoming ahead of the general elections in the past. In January, former interior minister and senior party leader Rana Sanaullah hinted at Nawaz’s “honourable homecoming” after overcoming legal challenges.

“Nawaz Sharif should land in Lahore,” he had suggested and vowed that he would be accorded an unprecedented welcome upon his return from London — where he has been residing since 2019.

Nawaz’s self-imposed exile

The three-time premier reached London on November 19, 2019, when he fell critically ill in prison.

It was alleged by the family that the Imran Khan-led government and his “backers” had tried to poison Nawaz. He was treated at the Harley Street Clinic and London Bridge Hospital for four months.

Nawaz had been diagnosed with an immune system disorder and doctors in Pakistan recommended that he should go abroad for treatment as his condition continued to deteriorate despite the best possible care in the country.

Delimitation, controversy around elections

There have been speculations and controversy around the next general elections as the electoral process faces delay. The polls which were supposed to be conducted in October are deferred till the start of next year due to the obligation of fresh delimitation.

The PML-N-led coalition government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9 while the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days instead of 60 days if the legislature completed its constitutional tenure.

If the elections are to be held within the thee 90-day limit, then the polls are due on November 9, 2023.

However, before dissolving the assemblies the coalition government in a Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting had unanimously approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.

According to Article 51 (5) of the Constitution, the seats of the National Assembly to each province and the federal capital shall be allocated on the basis of population as per the new census.

Following CCI’s approval, the ECP on August 17 announced the schedule of new delimitations which exceeded the November 9th 90-day constitutional limit, almost making sure that the elections are likely to be held post the 90-day mark.

As per the schedule announced by the ECP:

  • September 8 to October 7 — Delimitation of the constituencies to be held across the country.
  • October 10 to November 8 — Proposals regarding constituencies to be submitted.
  • September 5 to September 7 — A quota of constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies to be allocated.
  • August 21 — Constituency committees of four provinces to be established.
  • August 31 — Administrative matters related to the constituencies to be completed.
  • November 10 to December 9 — ECP to decide on the objections to the constituencies.
  • December 14 — Final publication of the delimitation.
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