Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has indicated significant political moves as the nation braces for general elections.
During an interview with Geo News’ program, Capital Talk, hosted by Hamid Mir, the Prime Minister revealed that Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N leader, will end his self-imposed exile and return to Pakistan next month. His homecoming is highly anticipated, as Nawaz Sharif has been residing in London since November 2019, primarily due to health concerns.
Notably, Nawaz Sharif relocated to London after being diagnosed and seeking medical treatment. His departure was post his conviction by an accountability court over graft allegations. The backdrop of this conviction traces back to 2016, when he resigned as the Prime Minister following a lifetime disqualification verdict by the Supreme Court for not disclosing assets. Further investigations, propelled by the Panama Papers leak, led to his convictions in the Al-Azizia and the Aveinfeild Apartment cases. Appeals against these verdicts are still awaiting resolution in courts.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while reflecting on Nawaz’s potential return, stated, “He [Nawaz] will neither wear a hat nor a bucket.” This comment was a subtle dig at the PTI chief, Imran Khan, known for wearing a bulletproof helmet during court appearances. PM Shehbaz expressed optimism about PML-N’s prospects in the upcoming elections and visualized a future where he supports a Nawaz-led administration.
The Early Dissolution of the National Assembly
The political landscape witnessed another shift as the National Assembly was dissolved prematurely on August 9, a day before the news of Nawaz Sharif’s return. This dissolution was spearheaded by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a coalition of multiple parties. The decision aimed at permitting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to initiate general elections within 90 days, expanding the earlier 60-day timeframe allocated for cases where the legislature concludes its term.
The 2023 Census and Election Delays
However, the schedule for the general elections might face delays. This comes after the Council of Common Interests (CCI) sanctioned the 2023 census. This approval implies that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) must execute fresh delimitation, a process projected to last three to four months.