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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has forbidden party leaders from hosting a grand welcome back event in his honour when he returns from London after Eidul Fitr.

In a statement, titled ‘The prime minister’s message to party workers and the people of Pakistan’, Mr Sharif appreciated the tremendous amount of love and affection that workers had sent his way during his time in hospital.

In the message, the premier notes that it’s because of people’s love and good wishes that he had a successful ‘sensitive operation’ and is now fast recovering from it. “I fully appreciate the concern which you have shown for me, which is a great asset for the party as well.”

“I have come to know that you are planning to throw a grand reception upon my arrival,” he notes, but warns that “instead of planning festivities to celebrate my homecoming, in a few days the great occasion of Eid is coming, hence, you should concentrate on celebrating that with full religious and traditional fervour.”

Without confirming the date of his arrival from London, the prime minister said he would soon be among his party workers and working side by side with them to bring prosperity to the country. At the same time, he advised the party’s rank and file to keep in their prayers all those Pakistanis who had lost their lives during recent terrorist attacks.

Many among the senior party leadership, when they met at the conclusion of the budget session last week, were of the view that the party should organise a special welcome get-together for the prime minister.

Some even suggested a series of functions in major cities to welcome the prime minister, as a response to the anti-government rallies PPP and PTI are planning after Eid.

Talking to Dawn, a ruling party MNA privy to party discussions in this regard argued that since the opposition had unabashedly criticised his absence from the country, therefore, a grand welcome reception would have been a befitting response.

When asked, the lawmaker said that although the prime minister had specifically barred the party from holding large-scale welcome celebrations on the eve of his arrival, workers would be organising separate small events on their own.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2016