ISLAMABAD: Javed Latif, federal minister and senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said on Monday the head of the party, Nawaz Sharif, who lives in self-exile in London, would return to the country in September.
Sharif, a three-time former prime minister of Pakistan, was sacked by the Supreme Court in 2017 on corruption charges and left for London in November 2019 for medical treatment. His brother Shehbaz Sharif became prime minister this April after Imran Khan was ousted from power in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence.
“The nation has announced its decision that Nawaz Sharif should come back," Latif told reporters, saying he would return in September.
Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison in December 2018 and fined $25 million on corruption charges that he says were politically motivated.
The anti-corruption court in Islamabad said in its ruling that the three-time prime minister was unable to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. Under Pakistani law, this is taken to prove corruption.
Sharif had already been sentenced by the same court to 10 years in prison on charges related to the purchase of upscale apartments in London, after the Supreme Court removed him from power in 2017.
The 2018 court ruling came on two charges related to Sharif’s assets: the Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia, set up by Sharif’s father in 2001, and Flagship Investments, a company established by his son, Hasan Nawaz, that owns luxury properties in Britain.
Sharif was found to have been unable to demonstrate that his family had acquired the steel mill legitimately, but was acquitted on the second charge, relating to Flagship.
Sharif denies all the charges which he says were politically motivated. He has. repeatedly accused the military and courts of working together to end his political career and destabilize his PML-N party. The military denies the charge.
The PML-N hopes Sharif's return to Pakistan will galvanize the party's votebank ahead of general elections in late 2023.