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Nawaz Sharif, a tougher opponent from prison

The ' Lion of Punjab ' hopes his sacrifice when he returns to Pakistan avoid the collapse of his party

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Nawaz Sharif, a tougher opponent from prison

Even without being a candidate, Nawaz Sharif is a key figure in this Wednesday's elections in Pakistan. Barred, sentenced to ten years for not being able to justify where he took money to buy four floors in London and imprisoned while considering his appeal, three-time prime minister continues to exert significant political influence through his Family. Although last year he had to give up leadership of his party, Pakistani Muslim League (PML), his bror Shahbaz, not only retains control, but hopes to capitalize on his situation.

A PML electoral ad published last Monday in several national newspapers showed Sharif and his daughter Maryam (condemned as a necessary cooperator) behind bars. Just above appeared his rival, Imran Khan, in pose smiling. The message for PML followers was clear. "His image of a martyr has managed to mobilize voters," says commentator Talat Hussain. The latest polls seem to give him reason: PML has regained positions in Punjab, decisive province. Even if it fails to maintain parliamentary majority, fight will be very tight.

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Sharif, aged 68, accuses military of having set up a conspiracy to deny him a second term as revenge for trying to limit influence of army. Its tantrum has been reinforced by allegations by journalists who have been censured of information about politician or his party, and even a judge of Islamabad hearing.

The known as Punjab Lion came to politics and PML in 1976, following government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto nationalized steelworks of his family. That was result of Bhutto's rivalry with People's Party (PPP) that would later be extended to his daughter, Benazir. The PML was divided into 1988 and Sharif since n leads its main branch, to which it is usually added initial of its name, PML-N. He was elected prime minister in 1990, but discrepancies with president shortened his first term.

Two years after he returned to power in 1997, during which Pakistan made its first nuclear tests in response to India's atomic program, coup d'état of General Pervez Musharraf (whom he had ceased as chief of Army) interrupted his Government. Sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption and or accusations, military allowed him to exile in Saudi Arabia. He returned in 2007, after a pact with uniformed to participate in elections of following year that would end military government. He lost to Bhutto's party, murdered six weeks before election.

Sharif, considered a religious conservative, waited in opposition to in 2013 to collect fruit of popular frustration with PPP and proceed to first democratic relay from partition in 1947. But not this time he was going to finish his term. The filtering of so-called Panama papers in 2016 motivated his disqualification last year and beginning of trial that has brought him to jail. He hasn't written last chapter yet.

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