LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government is considering relevant legislation to ease the return of its supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, who is in a self-imposed exile in London on medical grounds, to Pakistan.
PML-N leader and interior minister Rana Sanaullah has already said the coalition government might make certain amendments that would help repeal the ban imposed on Mr Sharif by a Supreme Court judgement in the Panama Papers case against him.
“The parliament can undo the lifetime ban on politicians and it may not be struck down by the court,” an insider told Dawn.
“Nawaz Sharif will be the ultimate beneficiary if this legislation is brought to parliament and subsequently adopted,” the insider said, adding that the introduction of this legislation would be linked to the outcome of the Supreme Court Bar Association’s petition in the apex court challenging lifetime ban on politicians.
Earlier, PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz had hinted that her father wanted to come back but there were ‘certain problems’ hindering his return. She was referring to legal problems as Nawaz Sharif will have to go to jail on his return in the Al Azizia corruption reference. Besides, she had also referred to not getting a ‘green light’ from the powerful circles for his return.
Sanaullah says party supremo will spearhead election campaign
After Shehbaz Sharif managed to become the premier in April last, some PML-N leaders were excited hoping that their supreme leader would now be among them soon.
But legal hiccups are said to be the main hurdles in his return plans.
Nawaz vs Imran
Nawaz Sharif will likely make his return to Pakistan ahead of the general elections as PML-N leaders think his presence in the field is necessary to stop Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) juggernaut.
In the face of the rising popularity of the PTI chairman who was ousted as the prime minister in April this year, the entire PML-N leadership is unanimous that the party needs Nawaz to be in Pakistan ahead of the polls if it wants to score a victory.
“Embarrassing defeat in the last month’s by-polls in Punjab has consolidated this view within the party that second-tier leadership like Maryam Nawaz and [PM] Shehbaz Sharif cannot compete with Mr Khan’s charisma,” an insider told Dawn.
Despite an aggressive campaign by Ms Nawaz, the PML-N faced a crushing defeat in the by-polls held on July 22 that cost Punjab to the Sharifs. “Only Nawaz can handle Imran Khan in the political field as per the PML-N senior leadership,” the insider added.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah dismissed rumours about the immediate return of the elder Sharif. He, however, confirmed that Mr Sharif return ahead of the next general elections to spearhead the party’s campaign.
“There has been a talk in the party about the return of Nawaz Sharif. He is likely to return to Pakistan ahead of the next elections whenever they take place to spearhead the PML-N’s campaign,” Sanaullah said on a private TV channel.
Mr Sanaullah was referring to the claims made by PML-N leader Javid Latif who had claimed that Nawaz Sharif was thinking of coming back to Pakistan in mid-September.
Mr Latif has been passionately appealing to his party chief to come back before it is too late to counter Imran Khan.
Nawaz in London
An ‘ailing’ Nawaz Sharif has been living in London since November 2019 for medical treatment after the high court allowed him a four-week reprieve. He was serving seven-year imprisonment in the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia corruption case before his departure to London on medical grounds.
Prior to his exit, his younger brother Shehbaz had submitted an undertaking to the Lahore High Court ensuring his elder brother would return “within four weeks or on certification by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return back to Pakistan”. However, the return is repeatedly delayed due to health concerns.
Nawaz Sharif’s passport expired in February 2021. However, the junior Sharif’s government issued a fresh passport to the elder Sharif in April this year.
It may be mentioned here that in August last year, Nawaz Sharif filed an appeal with the British Immigration Tribunal after the Home Department refused to extend his stay in the country on “medical grounds” any further. Mr Sharif can legally remain in the UK till the tribunal issues its decision on his plea for his stay in the country.
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022