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Shehbaz’s London Visit Bolsters Party-Establishment Relations

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In a strategic move that underlines the delicate balance of power and diplomacy within Pakistan’s political landscape, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif returned from his short visit to London on Thursday. This swift return followed his elder brother Nawaz Sharif’s outspoken speech on September 18, during which he called for accountability of former generals and judges allegedly involved in the 2017 government overthrow. Shehbaz Sharif’s London trip is believed to have played a crucial role in preserving the party’s equanimous relationship with the country’s establishment.

The fallout from Nawaz Sharif’s call for stringent accountability sent ripples through the PML-N leadership, with many members, including prominent figures like Rana Sanaullah, Javed Latif, Khurram Dastgir, Irfan Siddiqui, and Muhammad Zubair, expressing concerns about potential repercussions if the elder Sharif persisted with his demands. In response to this complex situation, it was decided that the party would pivot away from demanding accountability for former army chief retired Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and former ISI head retired Lt Gen Faiz Hamid. Instead, the party would redirect its focus towards addressing Pakistan’s contemporary economic and other challenges.

Upon his return, Shehbaz Sharif endorsed a party proposal to organize public meetings in the constituencies of Nawaz, himself, and his son Hamza in Lahore. These rallies, scheduled to commence on October 1, will be spearheaded by the party’s chief organizer, Maryam Nawaz Sharif. Their primary objective is to galvanize party supporters and build momentum in anticipation of Nawaz Sharif’s highly anticipated arrival at Minar-e-Pakistan on October 21.

While Maryam Nawaz takes charge of mobilizing party workers and overseeing the preparations for Nawaz’s reception, Shehbaz Sharif will focus on addressing the legal challenges confronting his elder brother. Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N’s paramount leader, had left for London in November 2019 on medical grounds, following a Lahore High Court decision granting him four weeks of bail. This move came after he had served a seven-year prison sentence at Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case.

The PML-N has confirmed that Nawaz Sharif intends to apply for protective bail before returning to Pakistan. However, the party has yet to make a definitive statement regarding whether he will voluntarily submit to the Al-Azizia Mills case conviction or seek legal remedies to address this matter, as Nawaz Sharif had previously been declared an absconder.

The dynamic between the PML-N, led by the Sharif family, and Pakistan’s establishment has been marked by a delicate dance of negotiations and strategic decisions. Nawaz Sharif’s recent calls for accountability posed a potential challenge to this equilibrium, prompting Shehbaz Sharif’s London visit to navigate a path that preserves party unity and the party-establishment relationship.

As Pakistan’s political landscape continues to evolve, the PML-N’s ability to manage these intricacies will play a pivotal role in shaping the country’s future political direction.

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