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Pakistan: Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif launches election campaign

The former prime minister who returned to Pakistan last year is the frontrunner for the February 8 election. His main opposition, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, remains in prison.

The Pakistan Muslim League, the party of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and frontrunner for the country's February 8 election, launched its official campaign on Monday.

Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz, considered his political heir, kicked off a rally in the eastern of Okara in Punjab province. The party's account posted photos of the rally to X, formerly Twitter.

"The more you vote for us the more you will see your household expenses going down," she told supporters. Pakistan has been struggling with persistently high inflation.

Main opposition leader languishing in jail

Sharif, a veteran of Pakistani politics and a three-time former prime minister, returned to the country last year after a four-year self-exile in London.

A court ruling on January 8 removed the final hurdle blocking him from a fourth term after his previous corruption charges were overturned on appeal.

At the same time, Sharif's main rival, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, is currently serving a prison sentence. Khan's once-powerful Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was also dealt a major blow after the Supreme Court banned the use of its cricket bat symbol, forcing its members to run as independents without the easy-to-recognize image in a country with high illiteracy.

A PTI rally in Karachi on Sunday was disbanded by police and its organizers were arrested.

Khan or Sharif?

Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022, an event he claimed was illegaland a Western conspiracy.

Khan, the 71-year-old cricketer turned politician, has a huge following in Pakistan and his supporters have claimed that the country's military played a role in his ouster.

Pakistan's military wields a lot of influence in Pakistani politics and security, but it has denied the accusations.

In 1999, Nawaz Sharif was ousted from office in a military coup. Sharif, despite his showdown with the military in the past, is favored by the military this time, analysts say.

Sharif clears hurdles to run in general election

Pakistan's Supreme Court last week scrapped a lifetime ban on politicians with convictions from contesting elections, paying the way for Nawaz Sharif to run for the fourth time.

The 74-year-old ended his last stint in power in 2017 when he stepped down over corruption charges.

The charges were subsequently suspended on health grounds and he was allowed to leave the country on certain conditions. He flouted those conditions and stayed in London for the next years.

Sharif was granted a protective bail when he returned last year which meant that he could not be arrested, but could also not run for election.

This final limitation was swept away last week.

Khan’s party has said it does not plan to boycott the elections despite its allegations of a coordinated effort to prevent it from fielding candidates and potentially governing Pakistan.

Many other politicians, including former Foreign Affairs Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who heads the Pakistan People’s Party, have also stepped up their campaigning for the parliamentary election.

Source: Dw

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