LAHORE: A federal minister of the PML-N on Monday claimed that former premier Nawaz Sharif is set to return to the country next month, ending his three-year ‘self-imposed exile’ in London. His ‘announcement’ comes a couple of days after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan alleged that ‘several conspiracies’ were being hatched to disqualify him and pave the way for Nawaz’s return.
However, Mr Javed Latif’s party colleagues feign ignorance to any news regarding Nawaz’s supposedly impending return to the country, though they admit it will happen soon.
Addressing a press conference here, Mr Latif, who is yet to be assigned a portfolio in the Shehbaz Sharif cabinet, said: “Nawaz Sharif is coming back to Pakistan in September to lead the nation. He will be accorded a historic welcome upon his return.”
“Nawaz was disqualified by former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar under the doctrine of necessity. Now, he should be given a level-playing field so that the country can move forward,” the minister demanded.
Those who ‘removed Nawaz and brought in Imran’ haven’t learned anything, says Latif
He was critical of the role of judiciary in the country’s politics, saying the “judicial coup” was started by justice Munir and reached its peak during the tenure of justice Nisar.
Flanked by PML-N Punjab information secretary Azma Bokhari, Latif, who had also been jailed on charges of inciting people against state institutions, indirectly blamed the military establishment for not learning any lesson by removing Nawaz and installing Imran.
“Those who removed Nawaz and brought in Imran have not yet learnt anything. Some elements (in the establishment) are still supporting Imran… otherwise he wouldn’t bein Banigala (but jail),” he claimed.
Latif, who has in the past announced different deadlines for Nawaz’s return, is not taken seriously by his party’s main leadership. Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb did not respond to Dawn’s query about Latif’s claim despite repeated attempts.
Another one of his colleagues in the cabinet, Ahsan Iqbal, did not confirm the claims either. “It is not in my knowledge that Nawaz Sharif is returning next month,” he maintained.
However, a PML-N leader Dawn spoke to confirmed “something is cooking regarding Nawaz’s homecoming”. He said not only the PML-N was working on bringing in legislation in parliament to undo the lifetime ban of Nawaz, but backdoor talks were also under way with the powers that be.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has already declared that 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.
“Parliament can undo the lifetime ban on politicians and it may not be struck down by the court. Nawaz will be the ultimate beneficiary if this legislation is brought to parliament and subsequently adopted,” a party insider had told Dawn.
On Saturday night, addressing a jam-packed PTI rally at the National Hockey Stadium here, Imran Khan had referred to alleged pressure from powerful quarters on him to agree on ‘nullifying’ Nawaz’s lifetime disqualification so he could contest the next general elections in 2023.
“A plot is being hatched to disqualify me in the Toshakhana and prohibited funding cases to pave the way for Nawaz Sharif’s return from London by the end of September,” he had said.
Nawaz not to face jail on return
During the presser, Javed Latif also announced that his party would not let Nawaz go to jail upon his return, as ‘injustice’ had been meted out to him in his case.
In the face of rising popularity of the PTI chairman, who was ousted as the prime minister in April, the entire PML-N leadership is unanimous that the party needs Nawaz in Pakistan ahead of the polls if it wants to score a victory.
Despite a vigorous campaign by Maryam Nawaz, the PML-N faced a crushing defeat in the by-polls held in July that cost the Sharifs their Punjab ‘citadel’. Only Nawaz can handle Imran Khan in the political field, as per the PML-N senior leadership.
An ‘ailing’ Nawaz Sharif has been in London since November 2019 for medical treatment after the high court allowed him a four-week reprieve. He was serving a seven-year imprisonment in the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia corruption case before his departure to London on ‘medical grounds’ which Imran Khan and his party declared that the elder Sharif feigned an illness to flee the country.
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2022