Pakistan’s three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned home on Saturday on a special flight from Dubai, ending four years of self-imposed exile in London as he seeks to win over voters’ support before parliamentary elections scheduled for January.
Sharif is expected to take part in a mass homecoming rally in the eastern city of Lahore later on Saturday and his return comes as Pakistan experiences deepening political turmoil and one of its worst economic crises.
“Today I am going to Pakistan after four years and I feel very happy with the grace of Allah,” Sharif told reporters before leaving for Islamabad from Dubai. He arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Friday from Saudi Arabia after traveling there last week from London.
He said he wished the situation in the country had improved in his absence. He left Pakistan in 2019, two years after resigning after being convicted in a corruption case.
He said Pakistan’s economy and political situation had declined in recent years, according to multiple videos shared by his Pakistan Muslim League party on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. But he added: “As I said before, I leave everything to God. I have left everything to God.” He said he made more than 150 court appearances after his 2017 ouster.
Sharif has been on the run since he failed to appear in a Pakistani court in 2019, when his successor allowed him to travel abroad. Imran Khan, to receive medical treatment after he complained of chest pains. Sharif then extended his stay in London, saying his doctors did not allow him to travel. Khan, Sharif’s main political rival, was arrested in August after a court conviction and sentenced to three years in a corruption case. Sharif, speaking to reporters in Dubai, said he hopes Pakistan can once again reach a development path. “There is a ray of hope and that ray must not be lost. With the grace of God, we can fix the situation,” he stated.
Sharif’s comments came two days after a Pakistani federal court granted Sharif several days of protection from arrest in corruption cases, clearing the way for him to return home from his self-imposed exile in London.
Thursday’s ruling by the Islamabad High Court was a big boost for Sharif and his party, which is struggling to counter the popularity of Khan, who was ousted by a no-confidence motion in April 2022 but remains the opposition’s leading political figure. popular despite his conviction and imprisonment. .Sharif also faces multiple legal challenges.
In 2020, an Islamabad anti-corruption court issued an arrest warrant against him after he failed to return home. The same court on Thursday suspended that arrest warrant until October 24. Another federal court granted Sharif a lease until October 24, giving him protection from arrest until then.
Sharif was convicted in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a corruption case related to the purchase of luxury apartments in London. His party became hugely unpopular after Khan’s ouster, when Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif He replaced Khan, a former cricketer turned politician. Shehbaz Sharif failed to improve the economy, although he saved Pakistan from default. His term ended in August. A provisional government is currently in power and will hold elections in January.