Pakistan's Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif has ruled out the return of ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif to the country until his "full recovery", asserting that his brother can legally stay in the UK till the British immigration tribunal decides his appeal against Home Office's refusal to extend his visa.
Sharif, 71, convicted in two corruption cases in Pakistan, has been living in London since November 2019 after the Lahore High Court granted him permission to go abroad for four weeks for medical treatment.
According to reports from London, the application of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo for visa extension has been turned down by the UK Home Office with the right to appeal.
In a statement issued on Friday, PML-N president Shehbaz, the Opposition leader in the National Assembly, said the Imran Khan government had allowed Sharif to leave Pakistan for treatment based on the reports of the government's own medical board, the Dawn newspaper reported.
"It is inhuman to do politics on the health of a three-time premier. The government machinery is bent upon defaming Sharif for its politics, which is earning a bad name to the country," he said.
About his elder brother's return to the country, Shehbaz said: "Nawaz Sharif will only return to Pakistan when he fully recovers and doctors in London allow him to travel (back to the country)."
He said that he could legally stay in the UK till the decision on his appeal regarding visa extension, the daily reported.
The appeal was filed before the immigration tribunal on Thursday.
PML-N Vice President and Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz said the visa issue had again proved how her father was on the nerves of the Khan government members.
"This fake government has accepted its defeat from Nawaz Sharif who is the present and future of Pakistan. By targeting a towering personality, the stature of a pygmy cannot be elevated," she tweeted.
The request for extension in stay was filed with the UK home department on medical grounds on the advice of his doctors.
"This is a routine procedure for anyone who seeks to extend their stay in the UK and Sharif has the right to an appeal in the Immigration Tribunal," PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters.
Nawaz Sharif's health had deteriorated while being in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau and the government headed by Prime Minister Khan, she said, insisting that the medical reports and tribunals had said they could not treat his ailment in Pakistan.
"Even Imran Khan had verified all these facts after the inspection of doctors from his trusted Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. The provincial and federal governments sent Nawaz Sharif abroad for treatment after fulfilling all legal requirements," she said.
She asserted that the party supremo would not seek political asylum in the UK, as he could legally stay in Britain till the immigration tribunal decision on the appeal.
Meanwhile, State Minister for Information Farrukh Habib said that the "fugitive and absconder" had been living in London with an expired Pakistani passport and the PML-N leadership had lost its sleep after the UK refused to extend visa on medical grounds."
"You [Sharif] have eaten enough pizzas and watched polo matches in London, besides having many cups of coffees and visits to Hyde Park. Now it is time to return home," he said.
The minister said that Sharif did not come to Pakistan even though his personal physician had already returned from London.
Legal experts say the coronavirus pandemic has caused a huge backlog of cases at the immigration tribunal and that Sharif's case may take a year or more to get a verdict. Until such time, he is expected to stay in the UK.
Sharif, convicted in two corruption cases -- Avenfield properties and Al-Azizia Steel Mills -- was declared a proclaimed offender in December 2019 by the Islamabad High Court after he failed to appear before it with regard to other cases against him.
An accountability court in Pakistan in 2018 had sentenced Sharif to 10 years in prison for owning assets beyond his known sources of income and one year for not cooperating with in the investigation of the Avenfield case.
In the same year, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case, where illegal investments were detected. All sentences were to run concurrently.