How Imran Khan’s ouster paves the way for Nawaz Sharif’s return

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to return from London next month, after an unprecedented political showdown that led to Imran Khan’s ignominious ouster from power

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to return from London next month, after an unprecedented political showdown that led to Imran Khan’s ignominious ouster from power.

Mian Javed Latif, a senior PML-N leader, said that a decision on the return of the three-time prime minister will be taken after a discussion with the coalition partners.

Sharif’s return to Pakistan has again made headlines in the country after ex-prime minister Khan became the first premier in the country’s history to be voted out of power through a no-confidence motion held early Sunday.

The joint Opposition’s no-confidence motion, which required 172 votes in the 342-strong parliament to pass, was supported by 174 lawmakers on Sunday, ending Khan’s prime ministerial term and seemingly bringing an end to the protracted political crisis in Pakistan.

Ahead of Sharif’s return to the country, let’s take a look back at his checkered past and his many returns to Pakistan:

Rise of Nawaz Sharif

The law graduate from Punjab University entered politics in 1976 by joining Pakistan Muslim League (PML), it also marked the beginning of a long political rivalry between his and the Bhutto family.

Nawaz Sharif joined the Punjab provincial cabinet as finance minister in 1981. Four years later in 1985, he became Punjab chief minister.

Upon the split of PML, Sharif formed the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

In 1990 he was elected prime minister for the first time, but just like all the elected prime ministers before and after him, he couldn’t complete his term.

In 1993, he was removed as prime minister by then-Pakistan’s president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. After terming the president’s order “unconstitutional” the Supreme Court reinstated Nawaz. However, he resigned soon after under pressure from the armed forces.

Sharif’s second coming

Nawaz was elected prime minister for the second time in 1997. During his term, Pakistan successfully tested nuclear weapons in response to India’s atomic programme in 1998.

The Kargil war in 1999 and civil war in Afghanistan, along with economic turmoil, put Sharif’s credibility at an all time low among the people.

He couldn’t complete his term as General Pervez Musharraf took over the country in a military coup. It was the country’s fourth army takeover since independence in 1947.

Sharif’s first trial by law

After the coup, he was convicted of corruption and given a life sentence for hijacking over an incident when he ordered Musharraf’s plane not to land in Islamabad.

Due to his special relationship with Saudi Arabia King Fahd, and pressure from US President Bill Clinton, Nawaz Sharif was allowed exile in Saudi Arabia.

Under an agreement, Nawaz was placed in exile for the next 10 years and agreed to not take part in Pakistan politics for 21 years. He also had to give up property worth $8.3 million and paid a fine of $500,000.

Return to Pakistan, not to power

In 2007, Nawaz Sharif returned from exile to contest elections the next year as part of a political deal that ended Musharraf’s military rule.

In the general elections held next year, Sharif lost to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Due to a common mistrust of Musharraf, PPP and the PML-N made a coalition government in 2008.

Return to power for the third time

In 2013, Sharif was again elected prime minister for the third time. The PML-N swept back to power in an election that gave its allies a solid National Assembly majority.

In 2014, Sharif became the prime minister to attend the inauguration of his counterpart in India when he attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

Panama Papers case and more

In April, 2016, the leaked Panama Papers showed involvement of Sharif’s family in offshore companies including two used to buy luxury homes in London.

PTI chief Imran Khan led street protests across Islamabad while threatening to paralyse the capital city unless demands for an independent investigation into the Panama revelations are met.

In November 2016, the Supreme Court set up a judicial commission to probe corruption allegations against Sharif in relation to the Panama Papers leaks.

In July, 2017, the Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from office for not declaring income from a company in the United Arab Emirates, which was not in the original Panama Papers revelations. The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to open a criminal trial into ownership of the London flats along with several other Panama Papers revelations.

After the Supreme Court banned Sharif from political office for life, the NAB court convicted him of corruption and sentenced him for 10 years in prison.

Escape to London

After claiming severe heart ailments, Sharif was allowed a four-week bail in November 2019 by the Lahore High Court for medical treatment in London.

The Supreme Court later in March extended his bail for a period of six weeks to continue pursuing his medical treatment.

After failing to return to Pakistan upon the expiry of his bail, the court declared him an absconder.
It is believed Sharif will have to face legal consequences for his earlier convictions as well as for his absence, if and when he returns to the country.

With inputs from agencies

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