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Wednesday February 01, 2023

Suleman Shehbaz to return to Pakistan after ending over four-year London exile

Suleman claims he was forced into exile due to fake and manipulated cases against him and his family

December 07, 2022
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharifs son Suleman Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/File
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's son Suleman Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter/File

LONDON: Suleman Shehbaz Sharif is returning to Pakistan, ending an over four-year-long exile in London, which the premier's son says he was forced to go into because of government-led judicial harassment.

Suleman, the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has reached Saudi Arabia — to perform Umrah — on his way to Pakistan. He will be arriving in Pakistan on Saturday with his wife and children.

Suleman went to London ahead of the 2018 general elections after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) registered several cases against him, which he claims were baseless.

He was also named in a number of cases along with his father, the current prime minister, his brother Hamza Shehbaz, and other Sharif family members.

The Assets Recovery Unit (ARU), headed by Imran Khan’s former accountability aide Shahzad Akbar, had Suleman investigated in London in Shehbaz's money-laundering and misuse of public office case by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) but he was given a clean chit after two years of investigation by the UK’s top anti-corruption sleuths.

Suleman claimed he was forced to leave Pakistan after fake and manipulated cases were filed against him and his family in order to facilitate a new political order.

He said that nobody goes into exile, leaving their homeland behind, out of their free will and it's only under unfair circumstances that he was left with no choice but to "leave Pakistan for safety".

“There was no chance of any justice at that time when a whole system was put in place to bring in the hybrid system, displacing us as a family and as a political party. The whole system was based on injustice and this system relied on lies, manipulations and victimisation. The whole system was geared to target us using fake cases and using the state machinery.”

He said in a statement from Madinah: “These cases were the worst example of political witch-hunt and political victimisation. There was no truth and not a scintilla of evidence of corruption in the cases cooked up by the National Accountability Bureau under the former NAB chairman Javed Iqbal and the Assets Recovery Unit."

"The former NAB chairman was blackmailed through a relationship scandal and scandalous videos by the previous regime in order to frame cases against me and my family."

"He was told that he would be kicked out of the job if he didn’t frame these cases to provide non-stop lies to the media to assassinate our character. We will never wish this kind of cruelty to even our worst enemies in politics.”

Then the ARU, according to Suleman, was established with the "sole purpose of hounding us through media trials and false cases" by abusing the resources of the state of Pakistan in Pakistan and in the UK but he failed miserably because there was no corruption.

Suleman was referring to the NCA’s high-profile money-laundering investigation which was initiated by the unit at the end of December 2019 and his assets were frozen in London through Assets Freezing Orders (AFOs) obtained at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

The investigation was focused on PM Shehbaz and his son Suleman to “prove or disprove” their alleged involvement in money laundering, fraud, corrupt practices, and misuse of public office for money laundering, according to official court papers available with this publication.

After an investigation of two years stretched to Pakistan, the UK, Dubai, Italy, Switzerland, and several offshore havens, the NCA informed the court that it was ending its investigation after finding no evidence of corruption, criminal conduct and abuse of public office.

The NCA aborted its money laundering investigation into Shehbaz and his son Suleman without any further action, unfreezing their assets.

While Suleman was in London, the ARU sent over a dozen requests to the UK government — through the UK Home Office and the British High Commission — to extradite him to Pakistan and run cases against him in the UK but Suleman countered all efforts of the PTI government.

The ARU was successful only in getting the NCA to investigate Suleman and his father but in the end, the high-profile investigation ended without any findings of corruption or illegality.