Wednesday June 12, 2024

Nawaz Sharif to return home on Oct 21

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s announcement of the date of return of its Quaid Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan has raised political temperature across the country

By Faizan Bangash & Imtiaz Hussain & Murtaza Ali Shah
September 13, 2023
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is seen talking to the media. Screengrab of a X video.
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is seen talking to the media. Screengrab of a X video. 

LONDON/SUKKUR: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PMLN) announcement of the date of return of its Quaid Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan has raised the political temperature across the country.

In a major development on Tuesday, former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif announced the date for his elder brother’s return home ahead of the upcoming elections to lead the party’s political campaign. “Nawaz Sharif will reach Pakistan on October 21,” Shehbaz told Geo News and later he confirmed the same during a media talk outside Hasan Nawaz Sharif’s office.

The statement came following a meeting of the PMLN’s top leadership chaired by Nawaz in London. After the Geo News broke the return date of Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif made the announcement to the media while Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Asif, Malik Muhammad Ahmed, Chaudhary Tanvir Khan and Barrister Danyal stood next to him.

Shehbaz credited Nawaz with Pakistan becoming a nuclear power, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and ending 20 hours of electricity load-shedding in the country. “Nawaz declined the package offered to him for not making Pakistan a nuclear power, saying that Pakistan’s interests were greater than more than $5 billion,” Shehbaz further said.

Senior PMLN leaders meet party supremo Nawaz Sharif in London. — photo by Murtaza Ali Shah
Senior PMLN leaders meet party supremo Nawaz Sharif in London. — photo by Murtaza Ali Shah

Shehbaz Sharif went on to say, “If the momentum of Pakistan’s progress in the industrial and other sectors during the period from 2013 to 2018 hadn’t been interrupted by the flawed elections of 2018, the country would have gone much ahead in development. Now 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. It was not Nawaz who was stripped of power but the people of Pakistan were deprived of development and prosperity.”

He said Nawaz was ousted from power through a conspiracy, adding, “The whole of Pakistan will accord a historic welcome to Nawaz Sharif.” He claimed the whole country awaits Nawaz Sharif’s return. “Inshallah, the country and the economy will progress once again under his leadership.”

When asked about the PMLN’s stance if the elections are not conducted on time, Shehbaz 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 on the election, Nawaz’s return and Pakistan Peoples Party’s stance also came under discussion. Both Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif condemned Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial 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 a sensation in Pakistan. When asked about the legacy of CJP Bandial, who retires in four days, Nawaz Sharif said that his legacy will be defined by his “mother-in-law”.

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

Ata Bandial was blackmailed and he succumbed to pressure and made decisions accordingly, he said.

Meanwhile, former federal minister and party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also confirmed Shehbaz’s statement in a post on microblogging site X. “Important statement of former prime minister and president of PMLN Shehbaz Sharif — the architect of Pakistan and the leader of the people Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will return home on October 21.” She also said the PMLN supremo would be warmly welcomed upon his return.

Last week during his interaction with his party workers and supporters at the Stanhope House, Nawaz for the first time confirmed his homecoming next month. Earlier, PMLN President Shehbaz also said that the ex-premier would face the law of the land when he returns to Pakistan. The decision to return around mid-October was taken after Shehbaz held two meetings with the PMLN supremo in London.

The PMLN 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. The three-time premier reached London on November 19, 2019, when he fell 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.

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.

Meanwhile, talking to the media in Sukkur, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that there is no level playing field for everyone even though the general elections are around the corner and urged that the old way of running the country has to be abandoned. Bilawal said: “Currently there is a level playing field for some in the country, but not for others, and I object to that [situation].” He further said that the solution to problems facing the country is “Awami Raj” (people’s rule), and elected representatives of the people must be seated in Islamabad.

The PPP chairman visited the family of journalist Jan Muhammad Mahar, who was killed by armed assailants in Sukkur last month. After the condolence, he said the brutal killing of Mahar was too much to condemn. He said the progress in the case was not made in the way it should have been. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and other leaders also accompanied him on the occasion. “The officers who have been posted in Karachi are from other provinces, so they may not have an idea, but the whole of Sindh is demanding justice for the slain journalist,” the PPP chairman added.

To a question, he said that former prime minister Imran Khan spoiled the national security policy in a matter of few days, adding that when the Taliban government came to power in Kabul, the PTI chairman allowed the terrorists who had escaped from the prisons of Afghanistan to return to Pakistan.

The PPP chairman said that policemen who are fighting dacoits in the Katcha area need all our support, adding that American weapons left in Afghanistan are now being used by terrorists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as dacoits in Sindh’s Katcha region.

“How dangerous was Imran Khan’s policy of settling terrorists from Afghanistan in the tribal areas of the country, its effects are visible now,” he pointed out. A plan was made to settle those terrorists here, he said and added: “Did ex-military officer Lt-General (retd) Faiz Hameed and Imran Khan have no idea that if they resettle these terrorists in Fata area, how long it will take them to reach Karachi?”

Bilawal said that terrorism is rising all over the country because the policy of the PPP has not been implemented. Before the 2014 operation, all the parties said that there should be talks with terrorists, but the PPP was the only party that said that terrorists must be fought with. “Even when no male politician dared to speak, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto fearlessly resisted the terrorists,” he recalled.

The PPP chairman said that we embraced martyrdoms and also defeated the terrorists, but then two or three people, surprisingly, forgave the enemies. He said that we have to do justice to our people, citizens, martyrs and the state.

“Those who were involved in making that wrong decision should be held accountable. If they are politicians, they will be held accountable by the people, and if they are from any institution, they should be held accountable by that institution,” he demanded and continued that the people of Pakistan and the families of martyrs should be told the story behind the return of terrorists and it should be made public now.

Talking about inflation, power crisis and other issues, Bilawal said the people have to suffer the decisions that are made by Islamabad’s bureaucracy, adding the Constitution says that where there are resources, the local people have the first right to them. “But we are told that we have to buy expensive LNG, because the cheap gas we have, is to be supplied to other areas,” he said and urged that this injustice has to be addressed.

He said that in the areas where there is no electricity for 18 hours, the electricity bill reflects as if electricity has been used for 24 hours. He said the country had many resources and PPP has made a plan to resolve the electricity crisis. “There should be plans under Public Private Partnership mode for electricity. We will bring solar and green energy projects,” he announced.

To a question regarding the general elections, Bilawal said that Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had the power to give the date for the general elections, so we are asking them to give the date. Meanwhile, talking in the Geo News programme Capital Talk, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that his party was ready for the general elections even if the polls were held the next day.

“Conduct the elections tomorrow... we are ready for the polls even for tomorrow,” Fazl said, adding that his party kept calling for new elections during the three-and-a-half years of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government. He said Pervaiz Khattak and Mehmood Khan are unreliable, there can be no electoral alliance with them, adding that there can be an alliance with GDA, MQMP and PMLN in Sindh. He said that currently there is no contact with the Peoples Party in Sindh.

Fazl said his party was not in favour of taking oath on the seats it won in the 2018 elections but backed off on this stance as its allies, PMLN and PPP were forming governments in Punjab and Sindh, respectively. He went on to say that the JUIF believed that the allies could have forced new elections by resigning from the assemblies. “But the establishment also didn’t favour immediate polls at that time”.

He also said that they had their objections even when the PDM was being formed, but the option of resignation from the assemblies was removed from its notification. “We fought hard to get the option back,” he added.

Discussing the matter of delay in the election, Fazl said the PPP was the second biggest force to support the polls under the new delimitation. The JUI-F chief said it was for the ECP to decide when it wanted to hold the polls as it has the matters of census and delimitation to consider. “The president [of Pakistan] doesn’t have the legal or constitutional authority to give a date for the election, it would be unconstitutional,” he said while suggesting President Arif Alvi should not be involved in policy matters as he was nearing the end of his presidential term.

Moving on to the government’s performance, Fazl put the weight behind the PMLN, saying that the GDP growth under Shehbaz Sharif-led rule swelled to six percent while the PTI pushed it to zero. “The PTI government pushed the country to the brink of default but we [PDM] reduced the burden of debts in 16 months and saved the country from default,” he added.

Fazl further said that some of the PDM’s political mistakes helped the government of Imran Khan-led PTI. “When the PTI’s graph was down, we suggested going to elections but afterwards the coalition government couldn’t conduct elections before completing the term.” The JUIF chief said that he had warned that they would not be able to resolve the crisis impacting the country if they opted to complete the government’s constitutional term.

Maulana Fazl said that his party workers are not safe as they are still getting threats after the suicide attack at the party’s convention in Bajaur district’s Khar on July 30, which killed at least 40 people on the spot and injured more than 100 others.

Separately, PPP Punjab leadership has alleged the PMLN had chalked out a strategy to rig the next general elections in Punjab and the appointment of officials in the education department was closely linked with this plan.

The PPP also demanded the ECP take notice of the appointments in Education Department at the behest of PMLN.

Flanked by Punjab chapter President Rana Farooq Saeed Khan, PPP Punjab General Secretary Syed Hassan Murtaza in a press conference expressed concern over the appointments in the education department. “PPP appeals to the ECP that like Sindh they should transfer officials in Punjab.” He said when the PPP talked about elections in 90 days, why a political party was saying that holding elections in 90 days was not possible.

“Pakistan Peoples Party asks Ishaq Dar why he was unable to control the flight of dollar,” said Murtaza.

Hassan Murtaza also said the PPP would not accept false propaganda against its leaders on social media and national media. He condemned the character assassination of PPP leader Shazia Marri and Mumtaz Chang.

“If leaders of PPP are guilty, then action should be taken against them, but if they are not, then the institutions should stop propaganda against them,” he said. He questioned if billions of rupees are being recovered from the leaders of PPP, why is the debt of the country not reduced.

While responding to another question, Hassan Murtaza said the PPP did not get any relief, adding that all the cases against PPP leadership were proved wrong in the courts. He also said the caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Mohsin Naqvi also respects Asif Ali Zardari. They enjoy a relationship based on respect.

Hassan Murtaza said that party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had started a mass public campaign from Karachi. He said the party chairman would visit Multan and other parts of Punjab. He will chair the meeting of the Punjab Executive Committee on Thursday (tomorrow). A decision on the holding of elections will be taken in the meeting of CEC.

Hassan Murtaza, to a question, said that there were no differences between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari on elections.

Meanwhile, PPP leader and National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf termed the reports of the return of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as a good omen. “It is appreciable and good omen that Nawaz Sharif is returning to Pakistan,” he said while responding to a question in a brief press talk with the media here.

Responding to a question on general elections, the NA speaker said that politics and democracy are interlinked with elections and whoever wins should rule. “Elections are part and parcel of democracy; whoever wins elections has the right to govern,” he said.