Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s photos went viral on social media having tea at a London cafe along with his family, sparking a debate whether he is seriously ill, with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf members demanding his return to face corruption cases.
In the money laundering and income beyond means corruption charges, the Sharif family is accused of swindling 7 billion Pakistani Rupees.
The three-time premier can be seen in the picture sitting at a roadside cafe with his granddaughters. He sported a blue shalwar kameez and a cap and apparently looked in better health.
Some ruling party ministers cast aspersions on his ill health, saying Nawaz Sharif is roaming on London streets and he even did not bother to wear a mask in this COVID-19 testing time.
“This picture of Sharif having tea in cafe is exposing our law, justice and judicial system. This picture also tells how much people can trust on the accountability system in the country,” Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry was quoted by PTI as saying.
Prime Minister’s adviser Shahbaz Gill said that Sharif had gone abroad after lying in the court.
“The Sharifs think the people are fool,” Shahbaz Gill said and asked Nawz Sharif to return Pakistan to face corruption cases against him.
The photo was trending on top on social media on Saturday, sparking a debate about Nawaz Sharif’s health with his detractors asking why can’t he return to Pakistan if he is well while his supporters expressed joy at seeing their leader in good health and spirits.
Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz claimed that the picture of the PML-N supreme leader was released by “some elements” with an intention to humiliate him.
“Like in the past practice they (an apparent reference to the establishment) wanted to humiliate him by leaking his picture. But the response to it was otherwise. The supporters of him got happy to see him. His detractors must learn from this,” she said.
She said when her mother was in the ICU in a London hospital, such elements even tried to take her picture “forcibly”.
Maryam tweeted, “For them to take Nawaz Sharif and his family’s women’s pictures is not difficult.”
Shahbaz Gill, however, claimed that the PML-N itself had leaked this picture of Nawaz Sharif to tell its workers that he is fine and “very much in-charge of the party”.
He said the PML-N workers have started looking up to Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif and that is why the party had to leak this picture.
Earlier in January, a picture of Sharif having tea at a London restaurant had gone viral, inviting a lot of criticism and raising suspicion that he might have gone out of Pakistan “under some deal”.
Defending this and previous “leaked” pictures, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Auranzeb said: “Mr Sharif had gone out to have a walk as per doctors’ advice.”
Sharif, who was diagnosed with an immune system disorder, has been advised by a PTI government’s panel of doctors to go abroad for treatment.
He had been diagnosed with a complicated coronary disease.
In London, he underwent comprehensive cardiovascular evaluation and investigations at Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital.
According to his daughter, Mr Sharif’s cardiac surgery had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan’s anti-graft agency had approved in mid May, the filing of two additional corruption references against Sharif in the accountability court.
The National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) regional board, under the chairmanship of its Director General Shahzad Saleem, had discussed the additional corruption references against 69-year-old Nawaz, his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, daughter Maryam Nawaz and 13 others in money laundering and possession of assets beyond known sources of income investigations.
The NAB Lahore had also initiated another probe against Nawaz, Shahbaz and Maryam for acquiring thousands of kanals in violation of rules making it part of their Jati Umra Raiwind Lahore residence.
In April, the NBA had announced moving court to declare Sharif a proclaimed offender in a land case involving Jang Group’s editor-in-chief Mir Shakilur Rehman, Dawn news reported.
Rahman is in judicial remand since he was arrested on March 12. Presently, he is in hospital on medical grounds.
In March this year, an accountability court exempted Sharif and his nephew Yousuf Abbas from appearing in proceedings of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) corruption case till filing of a reference by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Last year, in November, Sharif underwent a range of tests, including PET and CT scan, at a hospital in the UK to find out the exact cause behind his low platelet count.
On October 25, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had bailed Nawaz Sharif indefinitely on medical grounds in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case, days after he was taken to Services Hospital from Kot Lakhpat Jail after the deterioration of his health.
Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference on 24 December 2018. Rs1.5 billion and the US $25 million fine, a disqualification of 10 years from holding any public office was part of the sentences awarded to the former premier.
Sharif had also secured bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case from the Lahore High Court on the same ground.
The 70-year-old former PM is in the UK for his medical treatment.