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Have Pakistan’s Army Generals struck a deal with Nawaz Sharif to replace Imran Khan?

Nawaz Sharif (L) and Imran Khan (R). (File Photo)

The possibility of the return to Pakistan of the country’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from London is giving Imran Khan sleepless nights.

Though there is no confirmation about the deal between Sharif and the Pakistani security establishment headed by General Qamar Javed Bajwa but the way ministers of Imran Khan are daily giving statements that it "doesn't matter whether Nawaz Sharif returns or not", indicates that there is something happening behind closed doors.

Pakistani interior minister Sheikh Rashid said, “Some say he is returning and some say he was not. It doesn't matter if he returns or not, but Imran Khan will complete five years. Nothing is going to happen.”

This is the year of local body elections whereas the fifth year will be of national elections,” referring to the general elections which are due in 2023.

Information minister Fawad Chaudhry lost his cool when journalists asked him about Nawaz Sharif.

“I am telling you that Sharif himself would never return, we will have to bring him back,” said Chaudhary rubbishing such claims and daring Nawaz Sharif to return and face jail.

Despite attempts put up a brave face, there is a nervousness in Imran Khan’s government.

The speculated return of Nawaz Sharif is the only topic that is being discussed in Pakistani media every day.

According to Pakistani analysts, whenever it happens, it is “perfectly” timed for maximum political effect. Nawaz Sharif is fully aware that as a convicted person he has to serve his term in prison unless he is given a legal remedy.

Nawaz's return also means that the Pakistani security establishment has decided to allow him to resume political activities and getting cases against him “dismissed” is not difficult. According to a report, the Bar Council of Pakistan has decided to challenge Sharif’s conviction by the NAB in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

"It is not appropriate for the Bar Council to file a petition in court. I do not understand how it is legally viable to make him the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the fourth time,” says Shahzad Akbar, Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Accountability, adding that the President of the Supreme Court Bar Council had recently met Nawaz Sharif in London.

While top leaders who are close to the establishment are silent, a close confidant of Nawaz Sharif and former speaker of Pakistan National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq told Geo news that many meetings have been taking place in London.

“They are meeting Nawaz Sharif because they have realized that bringing Imran Khan into power has turned out to be a failure,” said Sadiq.

In its editorial, the Pakistani daily Dawn wrote that “Mr Sharif has a moral obligation to return to Pakistan as per his promise when leaving for London to get medical treatment. From the looks of it he seems to be in decent health which means there should not be anything stopping him from fulfilling the commitment he gave to the courts. The recent talk of his return is therefore a welcome sign.”

Nawaz Sharif’s return?

Veteran journalist and Editor-in-Chief Najam Sethi said that “talks between the Pakistani military establishment and Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz Sharif have yielded positive results, with only one or two hurdles to cross before steps are jointly taken to get rid of Imran Khan and install a new government that can transition to general elections as soon as possible.”

Interestingly, last week former Pakistani President and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari had revealed that he had been asked for help to strategise  a plan for the future of Pakistan.

Though Zardari did not disclose the source of his contact, the Pakistani media is speculating that the former President was referring to the military establishment. 

And how is the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan reacting to this development? Media reports, quoting Fawad Chaudhary said that when he spoke to Imran Khan about to revoke Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification, Khan responded that if convicted persons had to be released, then the doors of all jails should be thrown open.

Also Read : Is the Imran Khan regime in Pakistan heading for a meltdown in March?