Islamabad | Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to return to Pakistan from London on October 15, a media report said on Friday, indicating a delay in his plan as announced by his brother and former premier Shehbaz Sharif.
Nawaz Sharif, 73, has been living in self-imposed exile in the UK since November 2019. He was convicted in the Al-Azizia Mills and Avenfield corruption cases in 2018.
He was serving a seven-year imprisonment at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail in the Al-Azizia Mills case before he was allowed to proceed to London in 2019 on "medical grounds".
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo is expected to return to Pakistan on October 15, according to discussions within the family, Geo News reported from London, quoting sources.
According to the sources, the mid-October date was decided by Nawaz, Shehbaz, and close family members in London.
Earlier this month, former prime minister Shehbaz said that his brother Nawaz would return to Pakistan in September to face his pending court cases and lead the party's campaign for the general election.
However, the plan was changed in the last few days after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decided to conduct a fresh delimitation of Constituencies on the basis of the new census, delaying the general elections, which were scheduled to be held within the 90-day constitutional period since the August 9 dissolution of Parliament.
According to the sources, the three-time prime minister's return has been delayed till mid-October, not because of the ECP announcement but over the advice of party loyalists that September is too hot and severe for large-scale political gatherings, making mid-October a better time for return.
The decision to return around mid-October was taken after Shehbaz held two meetings with the PML-N supremo when the former visited London last week, the report said.
"It's the severity of weather that is being kept in mind in deciding the return date of Nawaz Sharif. There could be a further change, but for now, the date of 15th October is final, and further discussions will take place around it," the report quoted the source as saying.
Some Sharif family loyalists advised Nawaz to come to Pakistan immediately after ending his Europe and Middle East visit, which started three months ago and ended three weeks ago when he reached London.
However, some PML-N leaders advised him to arrive in Pakistan after mid-September — once the current Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Atta Bandial retires, the report said.
Bandial is accused by the PML-N party of favouring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and its leader- the jailed former prime minister - Imran Khan.
Nawaz on Wednesday accused Bandial of trying to save Khan after he picked holes in the conviction of the ex-premier in the Toshakhana corruption case verdict.
Chief Justice Bandial on Wednesday said there were "shortcomings" in the trial court's Toshakhana case judgment against the 70-year-old Khan.
"The chief justice is well aware that this person [Imran Khan] has wreaked havoc on Pakistan's economy, ethics, and culture. He has propagated violence and repeatedly violated the Constitution," Nawaz told reporters outside his Avenfield residence in London, where he has been living since 2019.
The PML-N supremo said Bandial was putting his future at stake by safeguarding the PTI chief, who was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison by a sessions court in Islamabad in the case filed by the ECP on August 5.
The Toshakhana case was filed by ruling party lawmakers in 2022 in the ECP, alleging that Khan concealed the proceeds from the sale of state gifts.
In 2016, Nawaz stepped down as the prime minister after the Supreme Court disqualified him for life for concealing assets. His appeals against the conviction are currently pending in the relevant courts.