In Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, has departed from London with the intention of returning to Pakistan. His journey home, following four years of voluntary exile, includes stops in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
Nawaz Sharif, who has served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan three times, initially left Pakistan in November 2019. He traveled to London in an air ambulance to receive medical treatment, following his release on bail a month earlier. The bail had been granted in the context of a seven-year prison sentence for corruption.
Sharif’s third term as prime minister ran from 2013 to 2017 when he was removed by the Supreme Court amid revelations over his personal wealth and subsequently convicted of corruption. Sharif has consistently denied the accusations, claiming they were politically motivated and blaming the country’s generals for directing the judges to bring him down. The military denies interfering in politics.
Sharif was only allowed to leave for medical treatment on Nov 19, 2019, after agreeing to a series of conditions preventing him from seeking exile. Under the court’s terms, Sharif had to return in four weeks if his doctors found him fit, and he was required to submit medical reports notarized by Pakistan’s embassy in London. Sharif has since lived in London in self-imposed exile.
“The PML-N supremo will … stay in the kingdom [Saudi Arabia] for a week during which he will hold important meetings. He will arrive in Dubai on October 17,” Geo News reported. “The flight carrying Nawaz to Pakistan will have the name “Umeed-e-Pakistan” (Pakistan’s Hope), which can carry approximately 150 passengers.”
He is scheduled to leave Dubai for Pakistan on October 21.
PML-N senior leader Ishaq Dar said there was “no chance” of Sharif being arrested on his return to Pakistan, adding that he would obtain transit and protective bail.
“Nawaz Sharif will follow the standard legal procedures,” Dar, a former finance minister, told reporters.
Sharif has been a central figure in Pakistan’s turbulent politics for three decades, repeatedly clashing with the powerful military.
In 1999, Sharif was overthrown by a military coup that brought army chief General Pervez Musharraf to power. Sharif subsequently went into exile in Saudi Arabia, before returning to Pakistan in 2007 as Musharraf’s grip on power began to slip.