With former prime minister Nawaz Sharif ending his four-year self-imposed exile with a “historic” rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on Oct. 21, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has ramped up efforts to ensure large numbers attend the gathering and welcome him upon his arrival.
Nawaz left London last week, flying to Saudi Arabia, where he spent some time with his son’s family and performed Umrah. Reportedly, he also conducted some meetings with senior officials of the Saudi government, but this has not been independently verified. On Oct. 19, he left Saudi Arabia for Dubai, where he is set to spend two days before returning to Pakistan via a chartered plane alongside 150 people, including journalists and PMLN leaders.
In recent days, the PMLN has launched a mass awareness campaign, plastering TV broadcasts with ads urging people to come out for Nawaz, who they maintain would steer the country back toward prosperity. It also issued a new anthem for Nawaz, with PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif calling on party leaders and workers to not “let me down” at a launch ceremony in Lahore. “Nawaz Sharif would put the country on the road of progress,” he said, urging participants to ensure a “historic welcome” for his elder brother.
Addressing the event, PMLN chief organizer Maryam Nawaz Sharif praised her uncle, Shehbaz, for standing by her father during difficult times. “Many forces tried their best to eliminate Nawaz Sharif politically, but they failed,” she said, as Shehbaz gestured thanks to her from the audience.
According to local media, the PMLN has also hired the services of two small aircraft to shower rose petals around Lahore for three-and-a-half hours to welcome Nawaz on Saturday. Reportedly, the Civil Aviation Authority has already granted permission to a private company to dedicate their planes for the purpose.
Earlier this week, Nawaz secured protective bail from the Islamabad High Court, ensuring he would not be arrested upon his arrival. Prior to the bail’s approval, the PMLN had planned to have him stop in Islamabad and proceed to courts prior to the Lahore rally. Now, per the PMLN, he would fly straight to Lahore from Dubai and attend the rally, where he would unveil his party’s electoral campaign.