Pakistan's outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that his brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan next month to face his pending court cases and lead the party's campaign for the general election.
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".
In an interview with Geo News on Thursday, Shehbaz Sharif, 71, said he would travel to London to meet his elder brother Nawaz Sharif as soon as the caretaker government took charge in the country.
Shehbaz Sharif reiterated that his elder brother would be Pakistan's prime minister for the fourth time if the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won the next election to be held later this year.
His statement came as the process to appoint caretaker setup formally kicked off with the dissolution of the National Assembly on Wednesday, three days ahead of the mandated period.
Nawaz Sharif will come back to Pakistan next month and will face the law and lead the election campaign, the incumbent prime minister said without giving the exact date of Nawaz Sharif's return.
In 2016, Nawaz Sharif 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.
He (Nawaz Sharif) will neither wear a hat nor a bucket, Shehbaz Sharif said while taking a thinly veiled jibe at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan who dons a bulletproof helmet while appearing for court hearings.
Khan, 70, was sentenced to three years in prison by an Islamabad trial court on Saturday in the Toshakhana corruption case for unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. He was subsequently arrested by the Punjab police from his residence in Lahore.
Khan, who is currently lodged in the Attock Jail, appealed his conviction and the three-year prison sentence in the case by filing a plea through his lawyers at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday.
Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the PML-N president, hoped that his party would win the next general elections and he will work as an activist of the party under the Nawaz Sharif-led government.
The early dissolution of the National Assembly will allow the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold general elections in the country within 90 days instead of 60 days, the stipulated time if the legislature completes its term.
The polls are expected to be delayed for a couple of months as new census results have been approved, which makes it a constitutional obligation to carry out delimitation before elections.
The ECP is bound to carry out delimitation within 120 days and then announce the election schedule.
Shehbaz Sharif will continue to perform his duties as the premier until the appointment of a caretaker prime minister.
Speaking about his meeting with Opposition leader Raja Riaz to deliberate on the interim Prime Minister's name, Shehbaz Sharif said: It is hoped that the name of caretaker prime minister will be agreed upon before three days.
Under the Constitution, the prime minister and the opposition leader have three days to finalise the caretaker prime minister's name. In the first round of consultation on Thursday, they failed to reach a consensus on the interim Prime Minister's name.
It has been decided that another round of consultation will be held tomorrow (Friday). Till a name is not finalised no name will be revealed, said Riaz following the meeting.
His statement indicated that both sides are keeping cards close to their chest. However, Riaz did confirm that he had shared the names of his candidates with the premier, hoping that things will clear out tomorrow.
Shehbaz Sharif said he will also consult his brother Nawaz Sharif regarding the appointment of a caretaker prime minister.
Amid concerns that polls might be delayed, Shehbaz Sharif said general elections should be held as soon as possible, adding that the ECP is responsible for holding elections in the country, not the caretaker setup.