Sharif ‘back with full force’ as party chief

COMEBACK: Nawaz Sharif
COMEBACK: Nawaz Sharif


PAKISTAN’S ruling party on Tuesday (3) re-elected ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif as its leader, saying he was “back with full force”, a day after using its parliamentary majority to amend a law to allow him to re-take the job.

Jafar Iqbal, who headed a five-member election body, said Sharif had been elected party presi­dent unopposed by the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N) central executive committee.

Sharif resigned as prime minister in July after the supreme court disqualified him for not de­claring a source of income. He was also forced to step down as president of PML-N, though he kept control of the party and installed Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a loyalist, as prime minister.

Sharif’s re-election as party chief brings him back into the political fold, he said, contradicting those who thought he would no longer be relevant.

“There have been attempts again and again to exit me, but you will always keep giving me an entry again and again,” Sharif told party workers after his election. “I congratulate that you’re bringing Nawaz Sharif back with full force.”

No one came forward to contest Sharif, Iqbal said amid clapping, thumping and slogans in support of Sharif in televised proceedings of the election in Islamabad. The former prime minister will lead the party for four years.

“Nawaz Sharif is the symbol of economic de­velopment in Pakistan,” interior minister Ahsan Iqbal said in his address to the party members.

Parliament amended a law on Monday (2) to enable Sharif to re-take the PML-N leadership. Opposition lawmakers tore up paper copies of the Election Bill 2017, passed by the Senate last week, that allowed Sharif to become the party president again.

The vote was more of a formality as PML-N has a vast majority.

Sharif has appeared before an anti-corruption court and is expected to be indicted next week, along with three of his children.

His sons Hussain and Hassan and his daughter Maryam have also been named in the case and are currently in London with their mother Kalsum, who is receiving treatment for throat cancer.

The veteran leader denies any wrongdoing and has alleged there was a conspiracy against him, with senior PML-N figures pointing fingers at ele­ments of Pakistan’s powerful military. The army denies playing a role.

The supreme court deposed Sharif in July fol­lowing an investigation into corruption allega­tions against him and his family, making him the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history to be ousted before completing a full term.

The supreme court also banned him from holding public office and ordered the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Account­ability Bureau, to open a criminal case against him and his children, which could see him facing imprisonment.

Sharif has faced such challenges before. In 1993 he was sacked from his first term as prime minister for corruption, while in 1999 he was sen­tenced by a military court to life in prison after his second term in office ended in an army coup.

On that occasion he was allowed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia, returning in 2007 before winning the premiership for a third time in 2013. (Reuters, AFP)