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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister, returns to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile Saturday, arriving to cheering crowds in his hometown Lahore as rumors of a political comeback swirled.

The journey got here as Pakistan gears up for a basic election and Sharif’s foremost rival, ex-premier Imran Khan, stays in jail on costs he leaked state secrets and techniques. The nation’s economic system has “slowed sharply” over the previous 12 months, in accordance with the World Financial institution, and an increase in militant assaults has helped foment political instability.

“I wish to serve this nation,” Sharif, 73, mentioned in an tackle to supporters, the Reuters information company reported. “My solely want is to see this nation prosper.”

Sharif was convicted on corruption costs in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in jail — however authorities allowed him to go away for London in 2019 to hunt medical remedy. He was later declared a fugitive, however a court docket in Pakistan lately granted him momentary safety from arrest, paving the best way for his return.

“The state awaits (Sharif) with open arms,” Pakistan’s Daybreak newspaper wrote in an editorial Saturday.

However complicating a possible run is the truth that Sharif’s youthful brother, Shehbaz Sharif, simply held the put up of prime minister — his authorities was dissolved in August — and has been broadly blamed for Pakistan’s financial disaster.

Nonetheless, Sharif’s supporters say they consider he gained’t be barred from working within the elections, scheduled for early subsequent 12 months, regardless of his corruption conviction. Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, had been each discovered responsible in the identical case linking the household to the illicit financing of actual property properties abroad.

“Since he was wrongly convicted, we consider the conviction will likely be overturned,” Sharif’s lawyer, Azam Nazir Tarar, mentioned in an interview.

Sharif’s choreographed return to Pakistan stood in stark distinction to Khan’s mounting authorized and political woes and rattled the imprisoned politician’s supporters.

Khan was ousted as prime minister final 12 months in a no-confidence vote in parliament and fell out with Pakistan’s highly effective army generals, who maintain sway over the nation’s politics. Scores of Khan’s political aides and occasion members resigned earlier this 12 months, citing stress from the military.

Imran Khan more and more remoted as Pakistan’s military pressures allies

Khan’s occasion — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — competes with Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for a similar base of voters. The election might be determined in Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, the place Lahore is situated. It’s a longtime stronghold of Sharif’s occasion – however one the place Khan had made main inroads.

Sharif could now see a gap to win again voters there, though he has additionally clashed with the army over a political profession spanning many years.

Analysts warned that Khan stays widespread — and Pakistan’s financial troubles are higher than one politician.

“Sharif’s occasion celebrates the return of its chief as if he has returned with some magical components to finish all severe financial issues this nation faces,” mentioned Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani political scientist. “It’s not the case, nonetheless.”

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