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Business News/ News / World/  Disqualified, self-exiled, return: Timeline of Nawaz Sharif's political fall and resurrection
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Disqualified, self-exiled, return: Timeline of Nawaz Sharif's political fall and resurrection

Five years ago, Nawaz Sharif was jailed and Imran Khan was elected to power. The tides have turned as Khan is currently in jail, as Sharif is set to pave his way back to the prime ministerial chair if the judiciary uplifts the electoral ban on him, analysts say.

Pakistan's former PM Nawaz Sharif waves to his supporters upon his arrival to address a welcoming rally, in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Sharif returned 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. AP/PTI (AP)Premium
Pakistan's former PM Nawaz Sharif waves to his supporters upon his arrival to address a welcoming rally, in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Sharif returned 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. AP/PTI (AP)

Nawaz Sharif, the former three-time prime minister of Pakistan, has returned to the country after an exile of four years. His return is timed just ahead of the general elections, in which his party PML(N) is hopeful of receiving judicial clearances to allow him to contest.

The 73-year-old's arrival in Lahore marked his dramatic victory over rival Imran Khan, Pakistani political analysts said, pointing out that it was under the cricketer-turned-politician's prime ministership when Sharif was convicted, and subsequently forced to stay in self-imposed exile in London.

This is also the second time when Sharif has ended his self-imposed exile and returned to his homeland. The first instance goes back to 2007. After staying outside Pakistan during the eight-year rule of military dictator Parvez Musharraf – who had overturned his government in 1999 – Sharif had returned back to the country and became a key stakeholder in domestic politics. This eventually led to his record win in the 2013 general elections.

Here's a timeline of Nawaz Sharif's subsequent political fall and resurrection:

April 2016: How Sharif landed in soup due to Panama Papers?

Millions of documents from a Panamanian law firm are leaked to the media. Some of the so-called Panama Papers show the involvement of Sharif's family in offshore companies that hold properties in London. Sharif, who became prime minister for a third time after winning a 2013 election, denies wrongdoing but a case against him by rival Imran Khan.

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July 2017: Sharif gets disqualified from holding PM office. Here's why

The Supreme Court disqualified the three-time premier from the prime minister's office, declaring him “dishonest" for not disclosing income from a company owned by his son. Sharif, who had fallen out with the powerful military over policy differences, including ties with India, resigned from office the same day. He soon left for London to tend to his wife who was receiving medical treatment there.

April 2018: Why Sharif did not contest the then polls?

In the backdrop of the graft cases against him, the Supreme Court imposed a “lifetime ban" on Sharif from taking part in politics or holding any public office in a first-of-its-kind decision. This forced him out of the elections that were subsequently held, and his party was defeated nationally as well as in all the provinces.

July 5, 2018: How Sharif ended up getting 10-year imprisonment?

An anti-graft court sentenced Sharif in absentia to 10 years in prison. He and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, seen by supporters as his political heir, are convicted after failing to prove the source of income used to buy properties in London in the 1990s.

July 12, 2018: The date when Sharif got arrested

With barely few days remaining before the polls, Sharif and Maryam flew back to Pakistan, and landed in their stronghold of Lahore. They were arrested at the airport and sent to prison.

July 25, 2018: Sharif further lands in trouble as rival Khan wins polls

Imran Khan, seen as an arch-rival of Sharif, won the general election and went ahead to become the country's prime minister for the first time. The conservative Khan, political analysts say, was favoured by the military to lead a civilian government. Both Khan and the military denied the allegation.

December 2018: Why was Sharif again convicted?

Sharif got convicted in another graft case and sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $25 million. He said the charges, linked to the ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia, were politically motivated. 

November 2019: How Sharif managed to leave Pakistan?

Sharif flew to London after a court allowed him to leave for medical treatment, on condition that he returns when fit. He, however, did not return.

April 2022: How Sharif's younger brother turned the tables against Khan?

Khan was ousted as prime minister in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. However, analysts linked his ouster to the growing differences with the military over security appointments. Sharif's younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, became the prime minister. 

May 2023: Imran Khan gets arrested

Pakistan's anti-corruption agency arrested Khan sparking violent protests by his supporters and months of tension between him and the military. The arrest, which came at a time when the country was grappling with record inflation, led to the escalation of political tensions.

September 2023: Stage set for next general election

The election commission announced that it was ready to hold a general election by the end of January 2024. This came a month after Shehbaz Sharif handed over the reins to a caretaker government, as the five-year tenure of the National Assembly came to an end.

October 2023: How Sharif was protected from arrest upon arrival?

While Sharif is convicted in two cases, and is required to serve a total of 17 years in prison, a court barred the authorities from arresting him upon his arrival. Following the issuance of legal immunity, the PML(N) had announced that Sharif would return on October 21.

Will Sharif contest in the upcoming elections?

As per a 2018 order of the apex court, Sharif is barred from holding any political office. However, the PML(N) is hopeful of seeking a revised order from the judiciary ahead of the polls, that could facilitate his return into electoral politics within the next three months.

(With Reuters inputs)

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Published: 21 Oct 2023, 08:33 PM IST
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