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LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to extend his stay in London after receiving reports that his wife Begum Kulsoom needs more surgical intervention for her lymphoma.

On Saturday, Begum Kulsoom underwent surgery for lymphoma for a second time in London. Mr Sharif and his sons — Hassan and Hussain — were present at the hospital during the surgery.

She had had her first surgery last week and a spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had declared the procedure “successful”. The party was quick to announce that Mr Sharif would return to Pakistan on Sunday (today) and kick off the second phase of his public contact campaign from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The campaign, however, has been put off following news that Begum Kulsoom had been unable to recover from the first surgery and had developed “medical complications” which required further surgical intervention.

“Mian Sahib will return once Begum Kulsoom Nawaz recovers completely,” National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi told Dawn on Saturday. “We are praying for her fast recovery. Nawaz Sharif may return after a week or so but it totally depends on his wife’s recovery,” Mr Abbasi added.

US visas have been acquired by the Sharifs so that Kulsoom could go there for treatment

The deputy speaker said that Mr Sharif would kick off the second phase of his public contact campaign from Abbotabad within a week of his arrival.

Mr Sharif had left for London last week amid rumours that he was unlikely to return to Pakistan where he would have to face three references, regarding the offshore properties and money laundering, filed against him and his children in an accountability court.

The PML-N, on the other hand, has been insistent in the assertion that Mr Sharif and his sons will return to face accountability. The ex-PM’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, is already present in Lahore where she is busy running the election campaign in NA-120 on behalf of her ailing mother. The delay in Mr Sharif’s return has ruled out his possible participation in the election campaign as the by-poll in NA-120 is scheduled to be held on Sept 17. The party earlier had considered asking Mr Sharif to address a public meeting in NA-120. “Now we cannot say with certainty that Mr Sharif would manage to return by Sept 17 to cast a vote for his wife,” a PML-N leader told Dawn.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Mr Sharif’s younger brother, left for London this week to see Begum Kulsoom. He was supposed to return on Sept 9 but, he, too, has now extended his stay because of the worrying medical reports of Begum Kulsoom.

A spokesperson for the Punjab government told Dawn that the chief minister had extended his stay in London and that he would hold an international conference on health today (Sunday) in which he would address Pakistani donors and top-notch doctors.

Commenting on reports that the Sharif family have obtained visas for the United States, the PML-N leader said, “The US visas have been acquired only for Begum Kulsoom’s treatment...The Sharif family has no plans to leave for the US otherwise.”

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has repeatedly shared their doubts over whether Mr Sharif would return to face NAB references. Mr Sharif should not have been allowed to leave the country without joining the NAB investigation, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2017