Nawaz Sharif Breaks Silence and Launches Election Campaign in Hafizabad

Former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif has kicked off his election campaign for the upcoming polls on February 8, 2024, by addressing a massive rally in Hafizabad, Punjab, on Thursday.

This was Nawaz Sharif’s first public speech since his return to Pakistan on October 21, 2023, after spending nearly four years in self-exile in London. He had been convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison by an accountability court in 2018, but was released on bail on medical grounds in 2019.

Nawaz Sharif’s comeback has energized his party’s supporters and challenged his political rivals, especially the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who have also intensified their electioneering in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had mocked Nawaz Sharif as a “lion in hiding” and accused him of being afraid of facing the people. He had also claimed that the PML-N had failed to deliver on its promises and had left the country in a mess.

Nawaz Sharif responded to Bilawal’s criticism and defended his party’s performance during his three terms as prime minister. He said that his mission was to put “Pakistan back on its feet” and that the country would have been among the prosperous states if he had not been ousted from power repeatedly.

He cited his achievements in building infrastructure, reducing power outages, creating jobs, supporting farmers, and improving the country’s image internationally. He also blamed the PTI government for the current problems of inflation, unemployment, debt, and corruption.

He said that he had been victimized by a “conspiracy” and removed from office for not taking salary from his son. He also questioned the legitimacy of the 2018 elections that brought PTI to power and alleged that they were rigged.

He appealed to the people of Hafizabad to vote for PML-N and assured them that he would develop the district like Lahore and connect it with the motorway network. He also promised to provide health cards, interest-free loans, and scholarships to the people.

He said that he had come back to Pakistan to serve the nation and to restore democracy and the rule of law. He urged the people to stand with him and reject the “selected” and “incompetent” government.

Nawaz Sharif’s speech was well received by the crowd, who chanted slogans in his favor and waved PML-N flags. He was accompanied by his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who is also a senior leader of the party and a candidate for the National Assembly.

Nawaz Sharif is expected to address more rallies in the coming days in different parts of the country, especially in Punjab, which is the stronghold of PML-N and the largest province in terms of population and seats.

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