In 1999, however, when it seemed he was getting too powerful, Mahathir had him jailed on sodomy charges.
It was a remarkable comeback for Mahathir, who was premier for 22 years until his retirement in 2003 and is now the world's oldest leader at 92.
There is little doubt that royalty has readily concurred with his plan of action, one that reaffirms the truism that there are no permanent enemies in politics ~ "The king has indicated he is willing to pardon Anwar immediately", said Mahathir.
PKR vice-president Shamsul Iskandar said the paperwork will be dealt with on Monday, with the pardon to be issued on Tuesday followed by Anwar's immediate release.
His impending release from prison would pave the way for him to return to politics and potentially become prime minister.
Mahathir has pledged to step down and give the prime minister's post to Anwar when he is pardoned.
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The Southeast Asian nation's political landscape has been shaped for almost two decades by a bitter feud between Anwar and Mahathir, whose decision to sack Anwar as his deputy sparked an opposition movement, Reformasi, or Reform, in 1998.
But this year, in a bid to remove Najib Razak, who has been accused of a $3.2 billion corruption scandal, Mahathir joined the opposition and agreed to run as its leader.
Speaking at a news conference, Mahathir also said he would announce a 10-member cabinet on Saturday, including ministers for finance, defence and home affairs. If indeed Anwar Ibrahim helms the government in due course of time, Mahathir will sacrifice the chance to right the wrongs that he was responsible for. He said he doesn't want a "huge" cabinet, in a veiled reference to past cabinets with more than 30 ministers.
Anger over the 1MDB scandal prompted Mahathir to emerge from retirement and sparked the anger that helped to oust Najib's coalition.
"In the case of foreign affairs, we want to maintain good relations with all countries regardless of their policies", he said. You can sign up to receive it directly here.