After four years, deposed prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif is returning to Pakistan on Saturday after spending four years in exile, primarily in the United Kingdom.
Upon his return, his party has prepared a massive welcome for him in Lahore with a rally planned at Minar-e-Pakistan where Nawaz is expected to make an appearance and speak to his followers while announcing the formal launch of his party's electoral.
Follow us as we cover his arrival.
Nawaz addresses rally in Lahore
Former prime minister began by saying that he was meeting with the public at such a scale after so many years, but their relation is still the same and that he was proud of the reaction and love he has been shown by the public. He said that he was addressing a public rally after six years since he spent two years in jail and then four years in exile.
He said that the public never betrayed him, nor did he ever betray the people. He added that he always worked for the people.
"I was put behind bars, I was exiled, fake cases were lodged against me, against Shehbaz Sharif and our entire leadership," he said.
Who are those who separate Nawaz Sharif from his beloved, his people after every few years? he asked.
"We are among those who helped build the country. We helped make Pakistan an atomic power, we did not rob Pakistan of nuclear weapons. We helped eliminate load-shedding which was at its peak in 2013," he said.
Nawaz Sharif did not hike the power rates. Nawaz Sharif solved load-shedding and provided it cheap to the public, he said, adding that he had brought his power bill with him.
"I know you want to hear 'I love you too,'" he said, adding that after experiencing the love of the public, he had forgotten all of his problems.
However, he continued that some incidents are too painful to forget.
He recounted the incident when his wife Kulsoom was on her deathbed, he asked the jail superintendent to allow him to speak to his wife. "I pleaded with him, you have these phones before you, please allow me to call my son and speak to her," Nawaz said, adding that his request was denied by the jail superintendent stating that they were not allowed.
"I asked him whom do you need permission from?" he said, adding that he was not allowed. In the end all he could do was go back to his cell. And then a couple hours later, he was informed that Kulsoom Nawaz had passed away.
Narrating the time when he was about to conduct the nuclear tests, Nawaz recalled that every world leader called them and said that Pakistan should not follow in India's footsteps but they pursued.
"I am also a son of Pakistan, I am loyal to Pakistan," he said.
With the name of Imran Khan coming to his lips as he tried to draw a comparison, Nawaz stopped himself, stating that he did not want to take his name and said that his training and upbringing did not allow him to respond to a stone with a brick.
Nawaz further said that Clinton not only offered $5 billion for Pakistan and another billion for him, but the former prime minister said that he was loyal and proceeded to respond to India's nuclear tests.
"Is this why our governments are torpedoed?" he asked.
He asked the gathered crowd how much they pay for a single piece of bread today. They responded by saying Rs20. Nawaz said that during his tenure, it cost Rs4.
"Is this why we were forced out of power?" he asked, adding, "do you agree with his decision?"
On petrol, he claimed that during his tenure it cost Rs60 per litre. On the price of a US dollar, he asked today it cost more than Rs250 while during his tenure, it was kept frozen at Rs104.
"I do not know why we are so thankless? A country was progressing but it was sabotaged."
Recalling his first government, Nawaz said that if the programmes they initiated when he first became the prime minister, today everyone would have jobs, they would have to sell off their assets just to survive.
Nawaz also sought to defend the 16-month tenure of Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government, noting that the issues that plagued his tenure predate him.
He also compared the prices of sugar which used to be Rs40 in his tenure and today it had spiked to Rs250.
"Pakistan was about to become an Asian Tiger and was preparing to enter the G-20," he said, adding that many other states had overlapped Pakistan and entered the G-20 while Pakistan has fallen behind.
He said that despite street protests against him, his government continued to build motorways.
"We built the Gilgit-Skardu Motorway and the Lowari Tunnel in Chitral. The Gwadar to Quetta Motorway, the Peshawar to Islamabad Motorway, the Islamabad to Lahore and then Multan motorways and the Multan to Rahimyar Khan motorways," he said, adding that they also built the Hyderabad-Karachi motorway.
He held up a bill of a resident Nasrullah Khan from May 2013 when the bill was for Rs1,300. The bill for the same house in August 2022, it had spiked to Rs15,000. Nawaz asked rhetorically did Shehbaz Sharif increase the cost of power?
Clarifying that he was not pleading a case for Shehbaz Sharif, rather this process began when he was ousted from power.
"There are a lot of cuts which will take time to heal, but I do not harbour any intention to exact vengeance," he said, adding that he only wants to solve the issues plaguing the country, that people have jobs, amenities.
"I want to serve the nation. I have done it in the past and I pray God gives PML-N the strength to continue serving the people."
He quoted Ghalib stating that their wounds should not be picked at otherwise their tears would bring about a most devastating storm.
Nawaz said that since his first tenure, he has spent at least 15 years either in jail or in exile. If these years I was allowed to serve Pakistan, we could have changed Pakistan's fortunes.
He continued that what work for development that they have not doe for the country?
"You ask about our narrative, then go and ask the Orange Line (built in Lahore), the Green Line in Karachi, the Metro Bus in multiple cities, the atomic bombs in Chaghi, the power bills, the rate of dollar, of our moralities," he said.
"We are not among those who would slander others - this is not what we did, they [PTI] did that," he said.
There is no space available to slack at meeting the needs of the public, he said. Adding that state institutions, pillars, political parties will need to work together to improve the state of affairs of the nation.
"We will have to unite on implementing the Constitution," he said, adding that this is something that this effort was always derailed.
Nawaz said that we have to start a new journey, adding that he is as determined and passionate as he was four years ago.
"We will have to decide how to reclaim our lost status. How can we run at twice the speed, break our begging bowl and stand on our feet and regain our national self respect," he said.
We will have to build a robust foreign policy, we cannot progress without establishing good relations with our neighbours and we cannot progress without resolving the issue of Kashmir, he said.
Referring to East Pakistan, he said that if we were still united today, we would have had an economic corridor between the two halves of Pakistan.
"We used to consider them as a burden on our economy so we offloaded them. Today, East Pakistan has progressed far beyond us," he said.
I have come to wake up the sleeping nation, to encourage you to step forward and take charge of your destiny and never again allow anyone to toy with your nation.
I spoke with patience and restraint, I have not said anything that I should not have done, he said, with the words clearly intended at certain quarters.
Nawaz Sharif condemned the incidents in Palestine, terming it a humanitarian disaster. He urged the world to give the Palestinians justice and to give them their fundamental right.
Pakistan will never accept that the rights of Palestinians are snatched, he stated.
"The road ahead is tough but not impossible! Will you revive Pakistan with me? Will you help lower electricity bills, lower the dollar rate, build motorways? If yes, then all will be ok," he said.
He stated that they have to improve our financial health, lower our debt, bring reforms, make Pakistan an IT power and eradicate poverty.
In a veiled swipe at Imran Khan, he said that he too has a rosary, but only uses it when he is not in public view.
'Nation's son is back to save the nation'
Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif made a brief speech in which he recounted how it was Nawaz Sharif who turned down an offer for $5 billion and proceeded to detonate nuclear bombs and declare to the world that Pakistan was a nuclear power.
He further said that former Indian prime minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Pakistan and the same Minar-e-Pakistan where he stood next to Nawaz Sharif and stated that today India recognised the existence of Pakistan. Thereafter, when Nawaz was removed and a dictator took over, all efforts to broker peace with India were only met with a half outstretched hand of Vajpayee.
Shehbaz further said that Nawaz is back once again to help guide the country out of trouble.
Naat featuring Palestine, Al Aqsa recited
Prior to Nawaz Sharif's speech, passages from the Holy Quran were recited and a 'naat' (hymn) in praise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were recited. The naat featured mention of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque - sacred for Muslims.
Later, former federal minister and PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique presented a resolution for the party leaders and the gathered supporters against the unethical and illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel and on Kashmir by India and demanded that these illegal occupations should be brought to an immediate end. The resolution was unanimously approved.
Nawaz Sharif climbs up on stage
By 7pm, Nawaz Sharif had finally reached the stage at Minar-e-Pakistan where he was warmly welcomed by party leaders and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.
He was welcomed to loud chants of "Sher Aya" (the lion has come).
Maryam Nawaz hypes up crowd at Minar-e-Pakistan
All of Pakistan is here. There are just 10% of people in Minar-e-Pakistan, the rest are outside stuck on the roads. The Ring-Road, motorway and highways are all chocked.
With Hamza Shehbaz's arrival at the rally, Maryam Nawaz invited her "brother" to the stage. She stated that there were some who used to say an "S" will defect from PML-N, but today not only "N" was here, so was "S".
Nawaz Sharif lands in Lahore, flys to Minar-e-Pakistan
Former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif returned to his hometown of Lahore on Saturday evening, nearly four years after going into self-exile aboard an air ambulance.
He was received by his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif who garlanded him. Nawaz then quickly boarded a helicopter as he flew towards Minar-e-Pakistan.
He landed at the Lahore Fort, where he was received by former federal interior minister and PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah, former Punjab chief minister Hamza Shehbaz.
Maryam Nawaz reaches rally site
Meanwhile, PML-N's Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz reached the rally site at Minar-e-Pakistan where she reviewed preparations for the rally.
Shehbaz Sharif reaches Lahore airport to receive Nawaz Sharif
Former prime minister and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday afternoon reached the Allama Iqbal International Airport to receive Nawaz Sharif.
Nawaz Sharif heads to Lahore
After completing his legal formalities upon entering Pakistan, including biometrics and signing several forms and documents. He then took off in his chartered aircraft towards Lahore.
He is due to complete the journey to Lahore in a short while and is expected to be airlifted to Minar-e-Pakistan.
Long queues on highways, Lahore due to large PML-N convoys
Due to the large PML-N convoys, several thoroughfares reported heavy congestion and jams.
As a result, many PML-N leaders said they were stuck in traffic attempting to get to Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore.
After four years, Nawaz lands in Pakistan
After spending four years in self-imposed exile, deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday afternoon landed on Pakistani soil.
His chartered flight landed at the Islamabad International Airport carrying around 200 people.
It is expected that Nawaz Sharif will spend around an hour in Islamabad before flying to Lahore. His immigration processes was completed at the VVIP and diplomatic counter because he was travelling on a diplomatic passport.
The Airport Security Force (ASF) has cordoned off the state lounge and no unauthorised personnel were allowed.
Nawaz to come to rally venue directly from airport
Former federal information minister PML-N Central Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb arrived at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore on Saturday afternoon to review preparations made for the rally later in the day.
Speaking to the media, she dispelled rumors and said that Nawaz Sharif will not make a stop over before heading to the rally venue after landing in Lahore.
She clarified that after landing in Lahore, he will directly head to the rally venue.
Moreover, she said that Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shehbaz are expected to visit the rally venue prior to Nawaz's arrival in Lahore.
Clarification:— Ishaq Dar (@MIshaqDar50) October 21, 2023
On a media channel, there is news that Mian Nawaz Sharif will first go to Jati Umra and will later go to Minare Pakistani at 7pm. This new is NOT true.
Mian Sb will arrive Minare Pakistan at 5pm today as per Program to address the Jalsa, InnshaAllah!
Nawaz expected to land in Islamabad at 2pm
The special chartered plane carrying Nawaz Sharif and nearly 200 of his supporters, has entered Pakistani airspace and is expected to land at Islamabad airport soon.
After spending a short while in Islamabad, he is expected to fly to Lahore, where he is expected to arrive between three pm and four pm.
PML-N supporters pour into Lahore
Convoys of PML-N supporters have started arriving in Lahore.
A convoy of PML-N supporters from Gilgit Baltistan had arrived last night while the first train carrying PML-N supporters from Karachi is due to arrive in Lahore at 2pm.
Only ECP can make better decisions regarding elections
Prior to his departure from Dubai, Nawaz Sharif spoke to the media and said that he is returning to Pakistan following his "vindication" and that his party is "competent enough" to lead the nation through a crisis.
While talking to journalists at the Dubai airport on Saturday, he said, "I am going back to Pakistan after being vindicated with the grace of Almighty Allah."
After a four-year self-imposed exile in London, the three-time former prime minister is returning to Pakistan with the intention of making a political comeback in the general elections which are scheduled for the last week of January early next year.
If voted to power, the former prime minister claimed his party would be able to alleviate the problems of the people.
In response to a query regarding the general elections, Nawaz supported the processes adopted Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
"The Election Commission is the only body that can decide on the elections more effectively. When asked about the January polls, Nawaz replied, "My preference for the elections is whatever the Election Commission thinks is right."
He said that the nation has a "fair" Election Commission in place.
The leader of the PML-N is certain that his party can rescue Pakistan from its current predicament.
He declared, "We are capable of handling the problems facing the nation."
The PML-N supremo bemoaned that the nation is in a far "worse situation" as opposed to being in a favorable one, even as he listed the accomplishments of his prior governmental administrations.
Nawaz stated, "The situation in Pakistan is extremely troubling and very worrying."
He added that their party were ones who identified with 'May 28' rather than 'May 9'. On May 28, 1999, Pakistan announced to the world that it was a nuclear power by conducting a series of tests of nuclear weapons in the Chaghi mountains. The explosions were conducted on orders of Nawaz Sharif in response to India's nuclear tests. It signalled a moment of unity between the civil and military forces in the country.
May 9 signified the attack mounted on state installations by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in response to former prime minister and party chief Imran Khan's arrest in Islamabad.
Nawaz has been in Riyadh and Dubai for the last several days. He is due to land in Islamabad this afternoon and goes to Lahore, where his fans will assemble for a welcome-home ceremony.
The PML-N, whose leaders believe that Nawaz's political clout and "man of the soil" swagger can resuscitate its fading popularity, has been touting his homecoming for months.
But a corruption conviction and an unfulfilled jail sentence loom over the PML-N supremo.
Nawaz avoided the possibility of being arrested as soon as he returned to the country earlier this week by obtaining relief from the Islamabad High Court and an accountability court. This allowed for his peaceful return to the country.