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Nawaz Sharif will have to navigate a minefield on his return to Pakistan

A poster of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz announcing his date of arrival.

The return of Miyan Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan after ending a four-year “self-imposed exile” has stirred a speculation fest. First, Nawaz himself has made a sensational claim that former Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI chief Gen Faiz Hameed and CJI Saqib Nisar be brought to justice, hinting action against them. Then, there are signals that he would have to face the  law for being a convict on prowl and chances of leniency are thin. And there are also possibilities that Nawaz might not return and can continue to call the shots from London.

Nawaz was convicted for corruption after Panama Papers leak exposure and sentenced to 10 years in jail, disqualifiying him from contesting elections for life. The Islamabad High Court granted him bail on humanitarian grounds in October 2019, and Nawaz went to London for medical treatment. Later in March, he was granted bail for a period of six weeks by the Supreme Court to continue pursuing his health treatment.

He hasn’t returned to Pakistan since then and has been declared an absconding offender. Besides, he faces non-bailable arrest warrants for the Al-Azizia corruption case, and if law takes its course, Nawaz will have to go to jail from the airport.

Nawaz’s own party colleagues are irked by his effrontery. Senior leader and PML-N senator Mushahid Hussain Syed has advised Nawaz to embrace “generosity” and adopt a “forward-looking approach” by forgiving and moving on, cautioning him against dwelling on accountability of former army generals.

“Forgive, forget, and move on. We must take a forward-looking approach,” Senator Hussain stated.

He cautioned that the military has always stood behind their generals, be it Yahya Khan or Musharraf and never wants to see any of them punished however grave are charges against them.

“The military establishment in Pakistan will protect its chief, no matter how controversial he is … he will be given full military honours. They will not allow — till now this situation has not come about, I cannot say about tomorrow — that they allow some outsider — a civilian — to try their soldier,” he said.

Meanwhile, there are also no signals from the military establishment to give any leeway to Nawaz to escape pending jail terms in corruption cases. Caretaker Information and Broadcasting Minister Murtaza Solangi said that Nawaz Sharif did not go to London after a jailbreak and will be treated according to the law on his return next month.

Solangi said that he could not answer whether Nawaz would secure protective bail or move to court, adding the answer is to be given by PML-N supremo himself or the law and Constitution of the country.

Moreover, some sources confirmed that a ‘narrative committee’ has also been established within the party to weigh in on the former PM’s retaliatory narrative to help him avoid running into unnecessary mess.

As of now, Nawaz is returning to Pakistan on October 21.

The date of return, claims Nawaz’s daughter, is final and her father will land on his homeland. “This is guaranteed,” she said, while addressing a rally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the stronghold of Imran Khan’s PTI.