LAHORE: Despite Shehbaz Sharif finally taking over as the chief executive of the country, his elder brother Nawaz Sharif’s immediate return from London has been ruled out by his party, the PML-N.
After the junior Sharif managed to become the premier, some PML-N leaders are excited and wish their party’s supreme leader is among them soon. However, there were a number of factors before Nawaz could book a flight back to Pakistan, they believed.
Talking to Dawn about Nawaz’s possible plans to return, a couple of senior PML-N leaders said the party leaders and workers were very happy to see Sharif junior donning the robe of premiership, and at the same time looked forward to seeing Nawaz Sharif among them in the coming days.
“Nawaz Sharif has no immediate plans to return. The Sharif family thinks that his early return will establish the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) propaganda that he does not have serious health issues,” a senior PML-N leader from Punjab said. “The other factor Nawaz will weigh before deciding to return is how the 11-party coalition government functions in the coming months in the face of the growing PTI pressure for early elections.”
In reply a question about a tentative date for Nawaz’s return, another leader close to the former premier said: “Either just before the next polls or right after. If Nawaz gets some relief in the corruption cases ahead of the next elections, the party will press him to return to spearhead the PML-N’s election campaign. To match Imran Khan’s canvassing, the PML-N needs Nawaz around.”
He claimed that since the new Shehbaz-led government would most likely pursue the cases against Nawaz aggressively to secure relief for him, Imran Khan’s party had rolled up its sleeves to ‘orchestrate propaganda’ over the plausible development.
On the other hand, the PML-N also sticks to its earlier stated position on the return of Nawaz. “Mian sahib will return to Pakistan once his consultants allow him to travel,” PML-N Punjab spokesperson Azma Bokhari told Dawn.
She said that after Mr Shehbaz’s election as the premier, the party workers have become emotional and want Mr Nawaz to return soon, but this decision has to be taken on the advice of his doctors. “He will be here at an appropriate time,” she added.
An ‘ailing’ Nawaz has been living in London since November 2019 for medical treatment after the high court allowed him a four-week reprieve. Nawaz was serving seven-year imprisonment in the Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore in the Al-Azizia corruption case before his departure.
Prior to his exit, the now-PM Shehbaz had submitted an undertaking to the Lahore High Court ensuring his elder brother would return “within four weeks or on certification by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return back to Pakistan”.
In August last year, Nawaz Sharif filed an appeal with the British Immigration Tribunal after the Home Department refused to extend his stay in the country on “medical grounds” any further.
Mr Nawaz can legally remain in the UK till the tribunal issues its decision on his plea for his stay in the country. Nawaz Sharif’s passport had expired in February 2021.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2022