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When Nawaz Sharif Met Journalists After Brewing Storm In Power Centers

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Reporters and PML-N workers wait outside Stanhope House in Central London rather impatiently. Due to arrive soon is the thrice elected prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, who is expected to address not only the All Parties Conference but also the nation after almost a year of silence.

No one really knows what to expect from the “wounded lion” who was ousted from power in the backdrop of the 2018 elections. As Nawaz Sharif arrives, a clutter of people is formed around his car. Everyone wants a piece of the PML-N supremo.

“Mian sab what will you say today in your address?”, “Mian Sab there are speculations that your speech isn’t allowed to run on the media, any comments?”

Questions strike Nawaz Sharif from all corners. He greets the journalists present and hints at a meeting after the conference is over. Nothing else is given away.

Journalists remain glued to their laptops and phones as Nawaz Sharif addresses the crowd. While Nawaz Sharif addresses the APC, some journalists and PML-N workers manage to exchange some comments amongst themselves. Everyone seems to agree that Nawaz Sharif is not in a mood to hold back.

The speech ultimately runs on mainstream media. People wonder how, when only a day earlier, government spokesperson Dr Shahbaz Gill had warned that PEMRA would penalise media houses if they ran this speech.

The mood is exuberant as Nawaz Sharif talks. Party workers chant slogans, “Mian jado aye ga, lag pata jaye ga” (When Mian will come, everyone will know), “Wazir e Azam Nawaz Sharif” (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) and “Dekho dekho kon aya, Sher aya, sher aya” (Look who’s here, it’s the lion).

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A few hours after the speech, Hussain Nawaz arrives outside to speak to the media. He reiterates his father’s stance reflecting the fight against a system, not a particular political party. Rumours of a meeting with Nawaz Sharif spread out as soon as Hussain Nawaz goes back to his brother’s office in Stanhope House.

Reporters have been waiting outside since the break of dawn, waiting to cover the All Parties Conference which is considered by many to be a turning point in Pakistan’s history.

A while later, shawarmas and water, courtesy of the PML-N are served to journalists, political workers and everyone else outside. Munching on the delicious food, ideas are exchanged, speculations are made and acquaintances are formed.

After most have eaten, a political spectacle is witnessed as a delivery driver brings Papa John’s pizzas to the crowd. Temperatures rise as PML-N workers demand accountability for everyone while flashing pizza boxes to astonished journalists.

“When will Mian Sab invite us inside?”, a journalist chirps to a PML-N worker managing security outside the door at Stanhope House. “Soon brother, soon InshAllah,” comes the reply.

Finally, the moment arrives, journalists are told to queue up on the stairs. Approximately 10 journalists are allowed inside at first. They are told that the meeting is strictly off the record and no phone will be allowed.

We hand over our phones to the plush reception inside the offices in Stanhope House. Our phones are sealed in envelopes with our names on them and we are told that they can be collected after the meeting.

Journalists seem exhilarated as they are led inside the spacious room where Mian Nawaz Sharif has recently addressed the nation.

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Nawaz Sharif seems calm, composed and comfortable. Before discussions begin, he asks for tea and biscuits to be served. There is water and chocolates for everyone at a nearby table.

Seated beside Nawaz Sharif is Ishaq Dar, the former finance minister of Pakistan. He gazes through the crowd but his eyes reveal nothing.

During the informal chat, Nawaz Sharif requests journalists not to ask political questions since he is visibly tired from talking politics all day. Instead, a different version of Nawaz Sharif comes forth.

Casually joking with reporters and genuinely seeking their advice and suggestions, Nawaz Sharif seems to be different from how he is usually perceived.

The whole room erupts in laughter and joy in response to Nawaz Sharif’s humour, there seems to be a comfort level between everyone present.

Party workers also address their leader. Nawaz Sharif listens patiently after a supporter from Peshawar requests him not to take “lotas” or turncoats in his party.

The mood is light and relaxed, everyone has the liberty to engage with Nawaz Sharif who seems approachable by all standards. Others choose to enjoy in silence in awe of a man who has ruled Pakistan three times.

As Nawaz Sharif talks to the young and the old, the journalists and the party workers, men and women, it seems that he is relaxed and composed, as if a great weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

However, his facial expressions do not match the storm his speech has brewed in the far away corridors of Islamabad.

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Naya Daur