Federal minister Javed Latif on Monday claimed that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif — who is in a self-imposed exile in London on medical grounds — would return to the country in September.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Latif said a "level playing field" in Pakistani politics was impossible without Nawaz's presence. He said the people had expressed their opinion and now wished for Nawaz's return.
Latif said the PML-N would not allow the party chief to go back to jail upon his return, explaining that the party felt "injustice" was committed against it. He alleged that Nawaz was disqualified on the instructions and directions of former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.
Analysis: Nawaz Sharif’s homecoming conundrum
Latif criticised PTI Chairman Imran Khan, and questioned whether those who had "removed" Nawaz and facilitated Imran's rise to power had still not learned their lesson.
"Some people are still pulling his (Imran) strings today. We know everything."
Latif alleged that Imran still had the support of "a few people", adding that he would not have come to Banigala otherwise and would have instead stayed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
"He came to Banigala after 15 days when he got cover."
Responding to a question, the federal minister said the PML-N did not want friendship or enmity with those who "made governments and broke governments" and the party had a clear stance that it wanted all institutions, including politicians, to operate within their legal and constitutional limits.
Counting on parliament
The PML-N government is considering relevant legislation to ease Nawaz's return.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had already said the coalition government might make certain amendments that would help repeal the ban imposed on Nawaz by a Supreme Court judgement in the Panama Papers case against him.
Nawaz 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 the 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 last month’s by-polls in Punjab has consolidated this view within the party that second-tier leadership like Maryam Nawaz and [Prime Minister] Shehbaz Sharif cannot compete with Mr Khan’s charisma,” an insider had told Dawn.
Nawaz has been living in London since November 2019 for medical treatment after the Lahore High Court (LHC) 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, Shehbaz had submitted an undertaking to the LHC 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’s passport expired in February 2021. However, the junior Sharif’s government issued a fresh passport to the elder Sharif in April this year.