Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday claimed the people will decide the fate of the country on Feb. 8—when elections are due—maintaining the party will “take the country forward” under the leadership of his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore as the election campaign ramps up, Sharif said he was confident the PMLN would secure sufficient seats to form the next government, adding this would enable Nawaz to be elected prime minister for a fourth time. Hitting back at the prevailing view of Nawaz returning to Pakistan as the latest “favorite” of the military establishment, he asserted this perception did not match history.
Both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have made criticizing Nawaz a central plank of their respective election campaigns, dubbing him a “ladla” (blue-eyed boy) who allegedly only returned to Pakistan from self-exile in London under an “agreement” with the establishment.
“Whatever happened in the past shows that Nawaz Sharif is not a ladla … someone else is,” said Sharif, referring specifically to the 1999 plane hijacking case and the iqama case from 2017. “There is no truth in suggestions that Nawaz Sharif is using the shoulders of the establishment,” he added.
Reiterating that Pakistan had seen exceptional growth during his elder brother’s last tenure as prime minister, Sharif said Nawaz—if elected—would once more work “day and night” to return the country to those days. “Nawaz Sharif is of the firm opinion that Pakistan has to be taken forward through consultation,” he said, lamenting that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had derailed the economy and hurt Islamabad’s ties with other nations.
He also blamed PTI founder Imran Khan for societal polarization. “This man has poisoned young minds. We will have to invest in the youth to de-poison them,” he said, adding the PMLN’s priority if it came to power would be the country’s large youth population.
Expressing confidence that voters would choose “performance, progress, and prosperity over fraud, disaster, and anarchy” in the general election, he stressed that Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz, and Hamza Shehbaz would all work together to steer the country toward prosperity. “This election is a defining moment for the nation’s future,” he emphasized.
“It is essential for Pakistan to move in one direction. Nawaz Sharif’s previous tenure is a testament to the positive impact we can make when we work collectively for the nation’s betterment,” he said, maintaining a consensus government was the need of the hour.
The PMLN is hoping to utilize Nawaz’s last tenure to wipe the public’s memories of the disastrous governance of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government, which saw record inflation under Shehbaz as prime minister.