Home Editorial Editorial: Yet another Nawaz Sharif Comeback

Editorial: Yet another Nawaz Sharif Comeback

The newly-elected PMLN president has a tough road ahead in reviving his party’s political fortunes

by Editorial

File photo. Tolga Akmen—AFP

Six years after being ousted from his party’s leadership by a Supreme Court ruling, Nawaz Sharif has been “elected” unopposed as the president of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), replacing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. In his inaugural speech after retaking the PMLN’s leadership, Nawaz highlighted the achievements of his previous tenures, maintaining the country’s economic situation would be far better if he were not ousted in 2017. This marks Nawaz’s second “comeback” in less than a year, with his first—in October 2023, when he ended four years in self-exile—failing to net him the Prime Minister’s Office or his party a simple majority in the Feb. 8 general elections. At the time, pundits had started eulogizing the thrice-elected prime minister’s political fortunes, but his return to national politics after a brief absence from the public eye suggests he isn’t ready to pack it in just yet.

Political commentators, especially in light of attempts to revive the party’s narrative of accountability, have noted the awkwardness inherent in Nawaz’s resumption of the PMLN leadership. While he recalls the country’s positive economic indicators from his previous tenure, his lamentation of the prevailing scenario rings hollow as his party was in power in 2022, when the country witnessed record-high inflation and only marginal growth. A major concern for those hoping to see a revitalized PMLN under Nawaz is also his outdated brand of politics, with no public appearances and an avoidance of media interviews, hampering any efforts to place him in direct contact with the general public.

Countering such claims are PMLN supporters who maintain that Nawaz—much like PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and PTI’s Imran Khan—needs the party far less than it needs him, as voters have an emotional attachment to him that wanes during times of inactivity. This remains to be seen, but it is difficult to imagine mass support when Nawaz returned to Pakistan with aims to become the prime minister but opted to step aside for his brother because he did not wish to rule over a coalition government. For now, Nawaz appears most comfortable in directing his daughter, Punjab C.M. Maryam Nawaz, and brother, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as they undertake the nitty gritty of governance.

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