The district administration of Lahore on Sunday granted permission to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) to stage a rally at Greater Iqbal Park on Oct. 21 to “welcome” Nawaz Sharif upon the conclusion of his four-year self-exile.
The thrice-elected former prime minister has been in London since November 2019, when he left Pakistan on medical grounds while serving out a seven-year prison term. Last month, the PMLN announced he would return to a “grand welcome” on Oct. 21, adding he would lay out the party’s electoral campaign in his address.
The district administration, in a statement, said the PMLN had been informed of the terms and conditions for the rally, adding the party must also secure separate permission from the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) ahead of the rally. It said the PMLN had submitted an affidavit maintaining it would pay the PHA for any damages incurred to the park during the rally. It further said the administration would engage with law enforcers to ensure security and smooth flow of traffic during the public gathering, adding a traffic plan and advisory would be issued to avoid inconvenience for the public.
Per the PMLN, Nawaz—currently in Saudi Arabia to spend time with his son and perform Umrah—would travel this week to Dubai, where he would spend three days. After his Dubai sting, it said, he would travel to Pakistan in a chartered plane on Oct. 21. He is slated to address the rally upon his return, though confusion persists over his ability to do so until he has secured bail from courts, which declared him a proclaimed offender over absence in proceedings of graft cases. He is also a convict, as his sentence was suspended when he was allowed to leave the country, but is set to resume upon his return.
Local media has reported that Nawaz’s return flight has been dubbed the ‘Umeed-e-Pakistan’ (Pakistan’s aspiration). He would be accompanied by members of the PMLN; family members; and journalists and would land at Islamabad before proceeding to Lahore.