A top Pakistani court on Wednesday declared the country’s ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who lives in exile in London, a fugitive from justice after he failed to return home to face additional corruption charges.
The move by the Islamabad High Court comes months after Sharif was given the chance to voluntarily return home. The next court hearing will be held in a week’s time, when the judges will discuss whether to proceed with the hearings and try Sharif in absentia.
Under Pakistan’s legal system, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government can seek Sharif’s extradition from Britain. If Britain accepts such a request, Sharif could be brought back in handcuffs.
The 70-year-old Sharif has been living in self-imposed exile in London after Pakistani authorities in November 2019 temporarily released him on bail amid deteriorating health so that he could travel and seek medical treatment abroad. At the time, another court permitted Sharif to leave the country for four weeks, with the option to extend the time abroad if he was not able to travel afterward.
Sharif’s bail later expired and authorities have already issued his arrest warrants for him.
In 2018, Sharif, who ruled the country three times as an elected prime minister and remains popular at home, was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption and money laundering. That corruption case was separate from the one that is pending against Sharif. He has also appealed against his conviction and the Islamabad High Court is now to decide how to handle the appeal in Sharif’s absence.
Sharif is also facing criticism for not returning to Pakistan to attend the funeral of his mother, which took lace over the weekend in the eastern city of Lahore. His mother died in London recently.
The former prime minister fell from grace after the country’s Supreme Court ousted him from office over corruption allegations in 2017.
Khan has repeatedly said he wants Sharif brought back to Pakistan for trial.