Pakistan's former PM Sharif to launch election campaign as front-runner

Sharif's key pledge will be to rebuild the $350-billion economy which is in dire straits, battling high inflation, an unstable currency and low forex reserves

By Reuters

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A worker prints election campaign posters of Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (top 3L) and his daughter Maryam Nawaz (top L) at a printer in Lahore on January 9, 2024, ahead of the upcoming general elections. — AFP
A worker prints election campaign posters of Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (top 3L) and his daughter Maryam Nawaz (top L) at a printer in Lahore on January 9, 2024, ahead of the upcoming general elections. — AFP

Published: Thu 11 Jan 2024, 1:21 PM

Last updated: Thu 11 Jan 2024, 1:22 PM

Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party is considered a front-runner to win general elections in February, will kick off his campaign next week, aides said, days after the Supreme Court cleared him to run for a fourth term.

The campaign for the Feb 8 poll, delayed since November, looks set to fire up a lacklustre race in an uncertain political environment after Sharif's main rival and former premier Imran Khan, was jailed and disqualified from contesting.

"We will, God willing, start our mass campaign on January 15," Pervaiz Rashid, a close Sharif aide told Reuters, adding that the former premier would speak at a rally two days later.

Ousted prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif. — Reuters file
Ousted prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif. — Reuters file

Despite Sharif's return to Pakistan in October from four years in self-imposed exile, his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had not yet begun its campaign, since he faced a lifetime bar from contesting polls.

On Monday, however, the Supreme Court scrapped such lifetime election bans for those with criminal convictions, clearing the way for Sharif to run.

Major players such as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto have already begun campaigns, but these have been muted compared to past polls.

The two largest parties, the PML-N and Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), have yet to gear up four weeks ahead of the election.

Bhutto's son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, her party's candidate for prime minister, pointed to the delay in launching Sharif's campaign, saying it called into question whether elections would be held at all.

Khan's PTI, the winner of the 2018 elections, which is known for festive gatherings that draw a good turnout, is grappling with a military-backed crackdown.

Sharif's key pledge will be to rebuild the $350-billion economy which is in dire straits, battling high inflation, an unstable currency and low foreign exchange reserves, despite averting a debt default with an IMF bailout last summer.

"We have delivered on the economic front every time we came to power," said the aide, Rashid. Previous terms in office saw Sharif favour policies focused on ambitious infrastructure-led economic growth.


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