PM extends UK stay on Nawaz’s instructions

By Ali Imran

ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had extended his stay in London by a day on the “instructions” of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in order to hold consultations on important national and political issues.

The premier had arrived in London last week to attend the coronation of King Charles III and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting — a biennial summit of governmental leaders from all Commonwealth nations.

He had also met with his older brother Nawaz and told the media that elections in the country would take place on the same day while asserting that Parliament’s constitutional rights would be protected.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the information minister said: “Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has extended his stay in London by one day for consultations on important political and national matters on the instructions of party leader Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The prime minister is scheduled to return to the country on Wednesday (today).”

Since assuming office, Shahbaz has visited London on three key occasions. His last visit was in November 2022, ahead of the new army chief’s appointment.

With the ruling coalition and PTI having exchanged proposals following talks on the timeframe of holding elections in the country, PM Shehbaz’s visit to London was being seen as a consultative visit, where he might have apprised his elder brother of the political situation back home and seek counsel on a future course of action.

Given Nawaz’s experience as a three-time prime minister and seasoned politician, observers said there was little doubt that the premier would want to seek his brother’s advice on how to respond to the Supreme Court’s deadline to hold Punjab elections on May 14,.

Though the final date of elections will jointly be decided by the coalition partners in the PDM alliance, it is Nawaz who may leverage his relationship with bigwigs such as Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Asif Ali Zardari to evolve some sort of consensus.

For months now, the impression in Pakistan has been that the PML-N wants to delay elections till such time as the economic situation comes under control and it can regain the political capital lost to issues such as inflation.

But many in the PML-N — most notably minister without a portfolio Javed Latif — feel an election date should only be set when Nawaz’s return to Pakistan is certain, as his physical presence on the ground is seen as critical to battling the PTI narrative that has gained popularity in Punjab.