Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shehbaz Sharif on Friday claimed that party leader Nawaz Sharif, who has been in self-exile in London since 2019, will return to Pakistan in October and lead the party’s election campaign.
“Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan in October and lead the election campaign,” Shehbaz, flanked by Nawaz, told journalists from London after attending a meeting with the senior leadership of the PMLN. However, he did not specify any date for the return, with local media reporting that it would likely be around Oct. 15.
This isn’t the first time the PMLN has claimed that Nawaz would return to Pakistan. Since the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government assumed power last year, multiple dates have been issued for Nawaz’s return, with an end to his self-exile yet to materialize. Earlier this month, several party leaders had claimed Nawaz would return around Sept. 16, immediately after the retirement of incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, but Shehbaz’s latest statement has made clear that was a misconception.
According to PMLN sources, the October return is aimed at reviving the PMLN’s popularity, which has been majorly dented by the tenure of Shehbaz as prime minister. Under Shehbaz’s leadership, the country witnessed record-high inflation, massive currency devaluation, and a dramatic increase in utility prices, triggering protests and unrest, with the general public increasingly unwilling to buy into the PMLN’s claims of “saving the state by sacrificing its political capital.”
It remains unclear how Nawaz would revive the PMLN’s political fortunes, especially as the party’s previous slogan of “respect the vote” was all-but-abandoned after Shehbaz was elected prime minister following the ouster of PTI chief Imran Khan in a vote of no-confidence. A possible rallying cry, per political observers, could be the alleged bias of the judiciary against the PMLN; especially when compared to its treatment of the PTI. Hinting at this, Nawaz earlier this week slammed former and incumbent judges of the Supreme Court, accusing them of orchestrating his ouster and facilitating the election of Khan as prime minister.