Three times he has ruled Pakistan, and three times he has been deposed. Now Nawaz Sharif, the “Lion of Punjab”, is watching the triumph of his great rival Imran Khan from behind bars.
Sharif, imprisoned since mid-July, is serving a 10-year sentence for corruption.
His daughter and political heir Maryam is similarly imprisoned, while his wife Kulsoom is fighting cancer in London.
And the great gamble he took in returning to Pakistan days ahead of the July 25 election has failed to galvanise support. Instead, Khan is set to take the oath as prime minister and usher in a “New Pakistan” on August 18.
“Now is the time to see how history remembers him,” says Muhammad Zubair, a senior member of Sharif’s eponymous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Such a scenario seemed unthinkable a year ago when Sharif, then a popular prime minister hailed for his infrastructure projects, seemed to be moving towards easy re-election.
The Supreme Court verdict in Panama Leaks case shattered his momentum on July 28, 2017, deposing him following a corruption investigation. He was banned from politics, and finally jailed.