LAHORE: PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif returned from London on Thursday, reportedly after managing to persuade his elder brother Nawaz Sharif “not to disturb the ideal equation of the party with the establishment”.

Mr Shehbaz had to skedaddle back to London within 48 hours of his arrival in the country following Mr Nawaz’s hard-hitting speech on Sept 18, in which he demanded accountability for former generals and judges allegedly involved in toppling his government in 2017.

Mr Nawaz’s demand for strict accountability put many party leaders, especially Mr Shehbaz, in a precarious position, as they became wary of potential backlash from the powers that be if elder Sharif continued with such statements.

Several party leaders, including Rana Sanaullah, Javed Latif, Khurram Dastgir, Irfan Siddiqui and Muhammad Zubair, recently indicated that it had been decided that the party would no longer demand accountability of former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and former ISI head retired Lt Gen Faiz Hamid. Instead, the party would shift its focus to economic and other challenges facing Pakistan today.

Nawaz’s accountability demands worry PML-N leaders

“Upon his return on Thursday, Shehbaz approved a party proposal to hold public meetings in the constituencies of Nawaz, himself, and his son Hamza in Lahore before the elder Sharif’s arrival,” a party leader told Dawn.

He further explained that these rallies would commence from Oct 1, and the party’s chief organiser, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, had been assigned to lead them primarily to build momentum leading to Mr Nawaz’s arrival.

“As Maryam Nawaz concentrates her efforts on mobilising party workers and overseeing arrangements for Nawaz’s reception at Minar-i-Pakistan on Oct 21, Shehbaz Sharif will focus on the legal matters his elder brother is facing,” he added.

The PML-N’s supreme leader had left for London in Nov 2019 on medical grounds after the Lahore High Court granted him a four-week bail. He had been serving a seven-year jail term at Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case before securing bail on medical grounds.

The PML-N has stated that he will apply for protective bail before returning to the country. However, the party has yet to confirm whether he will surrender in the Al-Azizia Mills case conviction or seek relief in it as well, as Mr Nawaz had been declared an absconder.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2023

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