• Mystery still surrounds ex-PM’s abrupt visit
• Says Nawaz will unveil plan to tackle poverty, improve economy at a rally upon return
LONDON: A day after arriving in London on a visit seen as sudden and rushed, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif met with his brother Nawaz Sharif and other N-league representatives at Stanhope House, and later said the meeting was called to discuss Mr Nawaz’s next legal and political steps.
Speaking to reporters after a huddle with Mr Nawaz, party Vice President Maryam Nawaz and former finance minister Ishaq Dar, Mr Shehbaz said, “Nawaz Sharif will return to a resounding welcome in Lahore, and will then address the nation at a rally at Minar-i-Pakistan where he will present the party’s plan to tackle poverty, unemployment and improve the economic situation.”
When asked whether he had come to London to “give a special message” to Mr Nawaz as was widely reported in the media a day earlier, Mr Shehbaz said. “Our meeting discussed the legal and political next steps for Mian sahib.”
He said the country should look at the party’s performance from 2013 to 2017 “when Nawaz Sharif ended 20 hours loadshedding, mainstreamed CPEC, and invited billions in investment”.
He said inflation in Mr Nawaz’s term was low, GDP growth was 6.5 per cent, and industries were flourishing.
“What happened in 2018 [Nawaz’s removal]… the nation saw what a joke was played. The country was thwarted from racing to new heights and Nawaz’s mandate was stolen.”
“A poison was injected into our national discourse, which normalised the abuse of colleagues and mentors — it was taken to an unprecedented level.”
Ahead of Mr Shehbaz’s London visit, which was planned a mere 48 hours after he got to Pakistan from a near one-month-long UK trip, it was speculated that Mr Shehbaz is returning to London to reportedly do damage control as the question why he dashed back to the UK was left unaddressed.
His visit comes days after videos of Mr Nawaz calling for the accountability of former army chief and ISI chief Gen Bajwa and Gen Faiz, repectively, were published by the London party headquarters on social media, with Mr Shehbaz’s visit being framed by some as carrying a message from the establishment to Mr Nawaz that such a stance was unacceptable.
Though Mr Nawaz clearly named the former generals, as well as former judges in his video clips, Mr Shehbaz at the presser did not take any names when he spoke about the “joke that was played on the nation” while referencing the removal of Mr Nawaz in 2017.
Earlier on Friday, during a meeting with party representatives Abid Sher Ali, Talal Chaudhry and Javed Latif, sources said discussions took place about the preparations and logistics of Mr Nawaz’s return, with the party being given instructions to focus its attention on a historic welcome.
The subject of why Mr Shehbaz returned was raised by one party leader at the meeting, but sources said it was not given much importance by the Sharif brothers.
After the meeting, Maryam Nawaz Sharif spoke to the media and said, “It will be a historic reception.”
When asked if there is any truth to rumours that Mr Nawaz will perhaps not return, she said, “This happens in politics, and these rumours will die. I don’t pay much attention to rumours.”
She said Mr Nawaz is in a very good mood that he is returning after nearly four years in exile. “In his 40-year career he has spent 11 in exile. I hope this is the last time he has to live in exile.’’
Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2023