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    Rumours of Sharif’s return ‘useless chatter’: minister


    ISLAMABAD: While the rumours of self-exiled deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s possible return to Pakistan has stirred the political environment, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed Wednesday dismissed the reports as “useless chatter”.

    After spending a year in prison, Sharif, 72, secured a conditional one-month bail in November 2019 to travel to London on the pretext of medical treatment but has since refused to return.

    His party insists that despite being summoned by the courts, which declared him a proclaimed offender in separate corruption trials, the former premier will only return after the completion of his medical treatment.

    Ahmed — who over the weekend offered to pay for Sharif’s ticket and issue him a visa if he was willing to return — today asserted it would “make no difference” to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government whether or not the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader returns.

    Interestingly, the comment came a day after Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said the government would bring back Sharif to the country as he would never return himself.

    Chaudhry, who was addressing a press conference, said the government has finalised matters with the United Kingdom regarding Sharif’s return. “Nawaz Sharif will never return home voluntarily,” he insisted.

    Rumours of Sharif’s return has stoked a heated debate with the next general elections hardly one and a half years away.

    However, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif categorically denied that Sharif would be returning to Pakistan until he completely recovers. In a statement on Saturday, the former Punjab chief minister said his elder brother might stay in London legally until the immigration tribunal rules on his appeal against the Home Office’s rejection for extending his visa.

    Ahmed lamented “unnecessary hype” was being created around Sharif’s return, and added it was unfortunate for Pakistan that people “who spent most of their life here eventually leave the country, instead of loving it [sic]”.

    The minister said his offer of a one-way ticket to Pakistan for Sharif was “still valid”.

    The minister further said he wanted the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to move back their protest in Islamabad scheduled for March 23 to March 30 due to the latter being Pakistan Day.

    “By just being adamant, you will hurt yourself and also force me to enforce the law,” the minister warned. “But I assure you no one will resort to any measure if you do not take the law into your hands.”

    Ahmed further said the 400-bed Mother and Child Hospital in Rawalpindi will finally be inaugurated on February 28, Radio Pakistan reported.

    The project worth Rs2.5 billion was launched in 2005 in the tenure of then-president Pervez Musharraf. The then-prime minister Shaukat Aziz laid the foundation on April 8. The project was the brainchild of Ahmed who was Minister for Railways at the time.

    Ahmed said the Leh Nullah project has been okayed by the executive committee of the National Economic Council (NEC), expressing hope it’d, too, be completed soon.



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