International media outlets including BBC, Guardian and AFP have predicted that three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will make a comeback as the country's elected chief executive for the fourth time in the general elections 2024, The News reported Thursday.
Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted thrice and came back from self-imposed exile last year, will have an opportunity to clear himself from those allegations due to which he lost his premiership in 2017.
Being a prime minister, Nawaz Sharif will have to face volatile supporters of former premier Imran Khan, who is currently incarcerated in Adiala jail and has been sentenced to 10 years in jail in cipher case, 14 years in Toshakhna and seven years in an illegal marriage case.
According to The Washington Post, it would be surprising if the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo did not emerge victorious in the February 8 polls.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported: “At a gathering of Pakistan’s business elite in Karachi last week, many people interviewed said they predicted a hung parliament and then a weak coalition government. Most expect it to be led by Sharif — or his brother, Shehbaz, also a former prime minister."
"If Nawaz returns as prime minister, he’ll face two challenges. One is managing Pakistan’s economic problems, especially soaring inflation and the other is managing his relationship with a strengthened military," Bloomberg reported citing Madiha Afzal, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution.
CNN reported: “The clear frontrunner in campaigning is Khan’s longtime foe, Nawaz Sharif. The 74-year-old former prime minister is seeking a historic fourth term as leader in what would be a remarkable political comeback following years of self-exile overseas.”
“Veteran Sharif will face a strong challenge, however, from first-time candidate for prime minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 35, son of slain former leader Benazir Bhutto," added CNN.
“Sharif is a veteran. He’s always been adept at balancing the United States and China very well. He’ll want good relations with India,” said Tim Willasey-Wilsey, a former senior British diplomat and professor at King’s College London. But the likelihood of a PLM-N victory could see an “an abysmally low” election turnout, analysts said.
AP reported, “He has a clear path to a fourth term in office after courts overturned his convictions and prison sentences after his return to the country last October. With his archrival and nemesis Imran Khan now in prison, the stage appears set for a reversal of fortunes from the 2018 election, when Sharif was battling legal cases and Khan became prime minister. With Khan behind bars, analysts predict another victory for Sharif.”
US think tank Brookings Institute mentioned: “The prediction is that Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N is likely to win power. The huge surprise, and for PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) it would be a miracle, would be if PTI-affiliated independents can pull off a win.”
The US think tank added that PTI had become the largest party and won election in 2018 in an election that had been tilted in favour of Khan and against Nawaz. The tables had turned that time around. So, that was an election which was tilted against Khan and in favour of the PML-N supremo.
US think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, said: “Instead, the way has been cleared for Nawaz Sharif, the ultimate survivor of Pakistani politics, to become prime minister and for his party to gain control of parliament with the armed forces supporting them. Sharif is a man who is, shall we say, flexible in his policy views and approach toward the military.”
Sputnik reported: “After the elections, the new leader will have to deal with one of the country’s worst economic crises and an escalating terrorism problem. These domestic issues could affect Pakistan’s foreign policy, particularly its relations with its neighbours and international economic partners.”
Telegraph wrote: “Former PM appears to expect coronation rather than close fight as his main rival Imran Khan lies buried under criminal convictions. As Nawaz Sharif ends his run for Thursday’s general election, the long-standing giant of Pakistan’s political landscape appears to be going through the motions.”