Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif will return to the country from London on October 21 to lead the party's political campaign in the upcoming elections, ending his over four years of self-imposed exile in the UK.
"Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan on October 21," his younger brother and former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, who is currently in London, said on Tuesday. “The party founder would be given a grand welcome upon return,” Shehbaz said in a statement after a meeting of the PML-N's top leadership chaired by Nawaz in London.
Nawaz, 73, had left for London in November 2019 after the Lahore High Court granted him four-week permission allowing him to go abroad for his treatment. But he never returned to Pakistan where he was convicted of corruption and jailed.
He was convicted in the Al-Azizia Mills and Avenfield corruption cases in 2018. He was serving a seven-year imprisonment at Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail in the Al-Azizia Mills case before he was allowed to proceed to London in 2019 on "medical grounds".
Shehbaz, 71, has previously said that Nawaz will be the next prime minister if the party returns to power in the general elections. In August, Shehbaz said that his elder brother would return to Pakistan in September to face his pending court cases and lead the party's campaign for the general election.
However, the plan was changed after the Election Commission of Pakistan decided to conduct a fresh delimitation of constituencies on the basis of the new census, delaying the general elections, which were scheduled to be held within the 90-day constitutional period since the August 9 dissolution of Parliament.
According to Geo News, the three-time prime minister's return was delayed till mid-October, not because of the ECP announcement but over the advice of party loyalists that September is too hot and severe for large-scale political gatherings, making mid-October a better time for return.
The decision to return around mid-October was taken after Shehbaz held meetings with the PML-N supremo when the former visited London in August.
In 2016, Nawaz stepped down as the prime minister after the Supreme Court disqualified him for life for concealing assets. His appeals against the conviction are currently pending in the relevant courts.
He was disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2017. In 2018, he became ineligible to hold public office for life after a Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.
He was expected to come back when his party came to power after Imran Khan was toppled in April last year but the expectation was not fulfilled. However, his PML-N party maintained that he would come back before the election and lead the party. Sharif is considered a crowd-puller and a major force to bring voters to the polling stations.