LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Rumors about possible return of former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) Quaid Muhammad Nawaz Sharif have sparked off a heated debate on the country’s already charged political scene with the government and the opposition party camps peddling and defending their own viewpoints.
Opposition Leader and PMLN President Shahbaz Sharif Saturday categorically said Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will not return until his full recovery.
In a statement, Shahbaz said Nawaz could legally stay in the United Kingdom until his appeal against the British Home Office's refusal to extend his visa was decided by the immigration tribunal.
According to reports, the British Home Office has rejected Nawaz Sharif’s application for extension in visa.
Shahbaz said the PTI government had allowed Nawaz to leave Pakistan for treatment based on the reports of the government's own medical board, says a news report.
"It is inhuman to do politics on the health of a three-time premier. The government machinery is bent upon defaming Sharif for its politics, which is earning a bad name to the country," he said.
Shehbaz said Nawaz Sharif will only return [to Pakistan] after full recovery and doctors in London allowed him to travel back home.
The appeal for visa extension was filed with the immigration tribunal on Thursday.
Meanwhile, PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz, in a tweet, said the visa issue had again proved how her father was on the nerves of Khan government members.
"This fake government has accepted its defeat from Nawaz Sharif who is the present and future of Pakistan. By targeting a towering personality, the stature of a pygmy cannot be elevated," she tweeted.
The request for extension in stay was filed with the UK home department on medical grounds on the advice of Nawaz Sharif’s doctors.
Talking to reporters, PMLN Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said it was a routine procedure for anyone seeking extension in their stay in the UK and Nawaz Sharif had the right to an appeal in the immigration tribunal."
Nawaz Sharif's health had deteriorated while being in the custody of NAB and the government headed by Prime Minister Khan insisted that medical reports and tribunals had said they could not treat his ailment in Pakistan.
"Even Imran Khan had verified all these facts after the inspection of doctors from his trusted Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. The provincial and federal governments sent Nawaz Sharif abroad for treatment after fulfilling all legal requirements," she said.
She asserted that Nawaz would not seek political asylum in the UK, as he could legally stay there until a decision on his appeal by the British immigration tribunal.
Legal experts say coronavirus pandemic has caused a huge backlog of cases at the immigration tribunal and that Sharif's case may take a year or more to get a verdict. Until such time, he is expected to stay in the UK.
The Islamabad High Court declared Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender in December 2019 after he failed to appear before it after his conviction in Avenfield properties and Al-Azizia Steel Mills cases.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said those waiting for a deal on his return to the country would remain political dwarfs.
In a tweet, the minister reacted to reports about possible return of ex-PM Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and charged that the PMLN leadership is bending backwards to seek Establishment's help for concessions for Nawaz but they are not being entertained. He said "those in PMLN were standing with ‘boot polish’ but nobody was putting their boots forward."
“You are a dark chapter in Pakistan’s history. Darkness vanishes when light spreads and same has happened in Pakistan,” he maintained.
Meanwhile, speaking at a function to cut the birthday cake of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and celebrate Christmas, Fawad said Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had given a vision to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state, while Prime Minister Imran Khan was overseeing his mission. The minister said Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave a vision to protect the rights of minorities.
“Imran Khan is striving to create a Pakistan that is modern and progressive and leads the Islamic world,” he said. “Following in the footsteps of Quaid-e-Azam, Prime Minister Imran Khan is striving to make the country an Islamic welfare state. And, today when we talk about Naya Pakistan, it is the same dream that Allama Muhammad Iqbal had seen which was fulfilled by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” he emphasised. Fawad said all PTI government's policies and actions reflected Quaid’s thinking adding that this was the Pakistan for which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was fighting.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Shahbaz Gill said former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was not returning for any political reasons but was being expelled due to expiry of his passport.
Talking to the media at a wedding ceremony in Burewala, he regretted that attempts were being made to give an impression that Nawaz Sharif was returning due to political reasons.
He said Nawaz Sharif went to the UK on medical grounds and he would be sent straight to jail from the airport on arrival. He said news reports about Nawaz Sharif’s return were being spread for political gains, though it had nothing to do with any deal.
Gill said if Nawaz Sharif's jail terms were to be abolished, then all the jails of the country must set free all the prisoners. He said Nawaz had given a written statement in the court that the Qatari princes were their family ATM machines. The PMLN’s top tier leadership is either divided, confused or uninformed on Nawaz Sharif’s possible return.
Speaking in a Geo TV program ‘Naya Pakistan’, PMLN Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal differed with Ayaz Sadiq and said with conviction that return of Nawaz Sharif was subject to the approval by his doctors. "I categorically say Nawaz Sharif will return by next flight available once his doctors allow him to do so," said Ahsan.
Earlier, Ayaz Sadiq, another PMLN stalwart, claimed that Nawaz Sharif was returning soon as the time of justice had arrived for him. Sadiq’s claim stirred the political scenario, as he has just got back home after meeting Nawaz Sharif in London.
Ahsan Iqbal clarified that the PMLN and masses in general believed that Nawaz Sharif would be exonerated once he got a fair trial.
"Everyone knows Nawaz Sharif was victimized in the name of accountability, where he was disqualified on Iqama (permit) in Panama case," Ahsan said.
Emphasizing that Nawaz Sharif’s stay in London was only for medical reasons, Ahsan said permission to go abroad for treatment was conditional with government contacting the doctors of Nawaz Sharif through the high commission in London if it felt or found that he was misusing his stay in London, but the govt didn't use this channel even once in these two years as they know that ailment and treatment are of serious nature.
"They are using it just for political consumption," the PMLN leader added.
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