The news of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s impending return to Pakistan on October 21 has once again captured the attention of the nation. This announcement, however, is met with a mix of anticipation and ambiguity, characteristic of the past few years of political turbulence in the country.
Nawaz Sharif’s return from his four-year exile in the UK is not a novel development. In fact, it is the fifth or sixth time that the party has declared his return date, creating an air of skepticism among the public. This uncertainty raises the fundamental question: What awaits Nawaz Sharif upon his return? Will he head straight to Kot Lakhpat jail, where he was convicted, or will legal maneuvers grant him relief beforehand?
It’s essential to recall that Nawaz Sharif initially left Pakistan in November 2019 for medical treatment, shortly after an Islamabad High Court order granted him temporary relief on medical grounds in the Al Azizia corruption case. However, his return has remained elusive, and in February 2020, he was declared an absconder by the government. Subsequently, an accountability court labeled him a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana vehicles reference.
The intriguing aspect of this saga is the legislative changes that have unfolded in recent years. In June 2023, the National Assembly and Senate passed the Elections (Amendment) Act 2023, which vested the Election Commission of Pakistan with the authority to unilaterally set election dates and limited the disqualification period for lawmakers to five years with retrospective effect. Critics labeled this bill as “person-specific legislation,” suggesting it was tailored to benefit Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Khan Tareen, both disqualified for life over five years ago under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.
Moreover, an accountability court in June acquitted Nawaz Sharif in a reference related to the alleged illegal allocation of plots in 1986 to the owner of a media house. This verdict came amidst a series of legal developments that saw several members of the Sharif family cleared of charges after the PML-N came to power following the ouster of Imran Khan as prime minister through a no-confidence vote.
In this backdrop, Nawaz Sharif’s return carries significant political implications. It is poised to rekindle the longstanding power struggle between political rivals, particularly the PML-N and the PTI. The dynamics of Pakistan’s political landscape remain fluid, with each party seeking to consolidate its influence.
However, the questions persist: Will Nawaz Sharif’s return mark a new chapter in Pakistan’s political narrative? Will he be able to navigate the legal challenges that await him? The uncertainty surrounding his homecoming only underscores the complex and evolving nature of Pakistani politics.
As the nation awaits October 21 with bated breath, one thing is clear: Nawaz Sharif’s return will be a pivotal moment, with ramifications that could reverberate throughout the country’s political landscape for years to come. Whether it brings clarity or further muddles the political scene, only time will tell.