1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Former Pakistani PM Sharif returns from exile

October 21, 2023

Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif is expected hold a large rally in Lahore to mark his return to Pakistan. The nation is facing a deep economic crisis under the current government led by Sharif's brother.

Hoarding of Nawaz Sharif plastered on buildigns in Pakistan
Nawaz Sharif is returning to Pakistan when its reeling from an economic crisisImage: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned to the country on Saturday, after four years of self-imposed exile in London, to restart his political journey ahead of the general elections.

Sharif's return comes as the country struggles with high inflation and other deep-seated issues. The economic crisis has intensified since his brother Shehbaz Sharif took power 16 months ago.

"This is a time for hope and celebration. His return bodes well for Pakistan's economy and its people," said Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a senior leader of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

The thrice-elected prime minister was traveling on a chartered-plane from Dubai along with an entourage of 194 people including party members and journalists, according to party sources.

Supporters of Nawaz Sharif celebrating before his arrival in Pakistan
Nawaz Sharif is expected to lead a massive rally of supporters in LahoreImage: K.M. Chaudary/AP Photo/picture alliance

Sharif landed in Islamabad and was set to travel to his stronghold, Lahore, where he is expected to address a rally of supporters.

"Tens of thousands of people have already reached Lahore to welcome Sharif," Muhammad Mehdi, a close aide to Sharif, said.

More than a million supporters are expected to attend the rally, according to Mehdi.

Challenges lying ahead of Nawaz Sharif

Sharif was ousted in 2017, during his third stint as the prime minister of Pakistan and in 2018 was sentenced to a  seven-year prison term on multiple charges of corruption. In 2019, he was released on bail due to his health problems and allowed to seek out treatment.

Earlier this week, Sharif was granted a protective bail which barred his arrest and hence allowing him to come back from self-exile.

While Sharif is returning ahead of the general elections, he is barred from running for office again due to the court rulings against him.

His legal team, however, says the Pakistani leader intends to make a court appeal. Party members say that he is vying to gain popularity and become prime minister for a fourth time.

For Sharif, the biggest challenge lies in regaining the confidence of the public competing against his fiercely popular political rival, Imran Khan.

"Sharif's key challenge is first to establish himself and his party as viable options to replace Imran Khan, who is already popular, and secondly to turn around the economy," said political analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.

Falling rupee leaves Pakistanis struggling to buy medicine

mfi/dj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)