ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s thrice-elected former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was returning home Saturday on a special flight from Dubai, ending four years of self-imposed exile in London as he seeks to win the support of voters ahead of parliamentary elections due in January.
Sharif is expected to address a massive homecoming rally in the eastern city of Lahore later Saturday and his return comes as Pakistan experiences deepening political turmoil and one of its worst economic crises.
“Today I am going to Pakistan after four years and I am feeling very happy with the grace of Allah,” Sharif told reporters before leaving for Islamabad from Dubai. He had arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Friday from Saudi Arabia after traveling there last week from London.
He said he wished the situation in the country had improved in his absence. He left Pakistan in 2019, two years after he stepped down after being convicted in a graft case.
He said Pakistan’s economy and political situation both declined in recent years, according to multiple videos shared by his Pakistan Muslim League party on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
But he added: “As I have said earlier, I leave everything to God. I have left everything to God.”
He said he made more than 150 court appearances after his ouster in 2017.
Sharif has been a fugitive since he failed to appear before a Pakistan court in 2019, when he was allowed to travel abroad by his successor, Imran Khan, to receive medical treatment after he complained of chest pains. Sharif later prolonged his stay in London, saying his doctors were not allowing him to travel.
Sharif’s main political rival, Khan was arrested in August after a court convicted and sentenced him to three years in a graft case.
Sharif, talking to reporters in Dubai, said he hopes Pakistan can again reach a path of development. “There is a ray of hope and the ray of hope should not be lost. With the grace of God, we are able to fix the situation,” he said.
Sharif’s comments came two days after a federal court in Pakistan granted several days of protection from arrest to Sharif in graft cases, clearing the way for him to return home from self-imposed exile in London.
Thursday’s decision by the Islamabad High Court was a major boost for Sharif and his party, which is struggling to counter the popularity of Khan, who was ousted through no-confidence in April 2022 but remains the leading popular opposition political figure despite his conviction and imprisonment.
Sharif is also facing multiple legal challenges. In 2020, an anti-graft court in Islamabad issued a warrant for his arrest after he failed to return home. The same court on Thursday suspended that arrest warrant until Oct. 24. Another federal court has granted Sharif bail until October 24, giving him protection from arrest until then.
Sharif was convicted in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in a corruption case involving purchases of luxury apartments in London. His party became hugely unpopular after Khan’s removal when Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif replaced Khan, a former cricketer turned politician.
Shehbaz Sharif failed to improve the economy, though he saved Pakistan from default.
His tenure ended in August.
A caretaker government is currently in power and it will hold the vote in January.

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