ISLAMABAD: A day after the Supreme Court rejected the review petitions of the Sharif family in the Panamagate case, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday summoned senior leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to London to discuss his future prospects.
Corresponding to this move, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi landed in London on Saturday evening, to hold an important meeting with the ex-premier, it was learnt.
Prior to this development, reports were afloat that Abbasi, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and other close confidants of Sharif were scheduled to fly to London.
From London, Abbasi would fly to New York on Monday (tomorrow) to attend the United Nations General Assembly session, sources said earlier in the day.
PM’s spokesman Musadik Malik was not available to comment on the issue. PM’s Political Adviser Ameer Muqam said that the plan to fly to London was on the cards but insisted that it had not been finalised.
PML-N chairman and Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq expressed ignorance when asked whether any meeting between the incumbent and former prime ministers was taking place. “Not to my knowledge,” he said, adding that Sharif’s return to Pakistan depended on his wife’s health.
PML-N sources said a number of important issues were likely to be discussed during the possible meeting between Sharif and other senior PML-N leaders. These issues include the appointment of a ‘regular’ N-League chief, Sharif’s return to Pakistan, his disqualification by the Supreme Court as well as N-League’s future strategy.
Insiders said ex-premier Sharif and his family, although not expecting much from the apex court in the hearing of review petitions filed against his disqualification on July 28, had hoped that the court might provide some breathing space to Sharif by ruling that his disqualification was not for lifetime but only for his (third) term as premier.
However, after the court adopted a toughened stance on the issue and made strong remarks about the respondents in addition to rejecting the review petitions, Sharif had silently postponed the plan to land back in Pakistan in the coming days, The Express Tribune learnt.
Reportedly, he is weighing options before finalising the date for his return. Some PML-N circles believe the political environment is not conducive for Sharif’s return and he has been advised to stay in London for some time.
The former PM, the insiders said, had heeded to the advice of his younger brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, to stay away from the spotlight for a few days and review the political situation before deciding to come back.
This is the reason that the former prime minister, who had earlier decided to himself oversee the election campaign of his wife Kulsoom Nawaz for NA-120 from Lahore, is not around while the crucial electoral battle, mainly between the PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, is taking place today (Sunday).
During his meeting with Sharif in London, Abbasi was likely to advise him to stay backstage instead of aggressively appearing on the media to target state institutions — judiciary and security establishment in particular — as he has been doing lately.
The PML-N leadership is waiting to see the outcome of the NA-120 by-election. “In case we manage to win this poll with a huge margin, this would imply that Mian Sahib’s vote bank is still intact. And if things do not go as per plan, there are options,” said a PML-N MNA from Punjab, requesting anonymity.
In case of an adverse result in NA-120, Sharif’s return home might see a further delay, the sources said. “Such a scenario would be extremely embarrassing — to lose an election or even to win it narrowly in a constituency that falls in the heart of our power bastion Lahore, the home constituency of Mian Sahib. And to avoid potential embarrassment, it would be best to stay away from the limelight for a while,” he said.
He added that Sharif might decide to land in Pakistan soon, in case his wife won the NA-120 contest with a thumping majority.