Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left for London on August 30 to see his ailing wife Begum Kulsoom amid speculation that he might not return due to the ongoing corruption and money laundering cases against him.
Sharif, 67, will spend Eid with his wife and other members of his family in London. He boarded the Emirates flight EK-625 on August 30 morning that has a transitory stay of a few hours in Dubai. His younger brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif saw him off at the Lahore airport.
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Before leaving for London, Sharif asked the people to pray for the health of his wife who is suffering from throat cancer. According to Sharif’s close aide Senator Pervaiz Rashid, the former premier will stay in London for at least 10 days. “However, he may extend his stay for more days depending on Begum Kulsoom’s health,” he said.
Sharif’s exit from Pakistan came amid rumours that he may not return to the country as he is facing corruption and money laundering cases. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country’s to anti-corruption body, is going to file four cases against Sharif and his children. Rashid, however, dismissed the rumours, saying Sharif loves his country.
“Why would Sharif choose to stay away from the country where he is loved the most by the people? The circumstances today are not the way they were in 2007, when dictator Musharraf was ruling here. Even at that time, Sharif had returned to the country from exile (in Saudi Arabia) but he was sent back by the dictator,” said Rashid.
Ms. Kulsoom has been receiving treatment for throat cancer (lymphoma) in London. Sharif’s sons — Hussain and Hasan — and daughter Asma are already with Ms. Kulsoom in London. However, Sharif’s daughter Maryam who is active in politics and is tipped as his successor and future Prime Minister candidate is not going to London as she has to run her mother’s campaign in Lahore. The seat fell vacant after Supreme Court disqualified Sharif in the Panama Papers case on July 28.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said Sharif may not return to Pakistan to escape the NAB cases. “Sharif may not return to the country to face NAB corruption references in which he cannot evade punishment,” Khan’s party spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said. The apex court should not have allowed Sharif from leaving the country without completion of NAB probe, Chaudhry said, adding it appears the former premier is being given “special treatment”.
NAB has announced filing four references against the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar soon after Eidul Azha (next week).