The news that Nawaz Sharif has been denied a visa extension in the United Kingdom has once again rattled the political landscape. There is intense speculation on the options the former prime minister has after he went abroad on medical grounds and never returned.
Nawaz Sharif was allowed to stay in the UK for six months and has been issued an extension before. His passport has since been revoked and he is unable to travel. It is also unclear why he has been refused an extension now but is widely expected to appeal the decision. Nawaz reportedly has a few days to leave the country but this is unlikely as he would seek to prolong his stay. If the situation comes to deportation, then Nawaz can go to court and lengthen the process which could take nearly a year.
Another option for Nawaz Sharif is to seek asylum abroad. With his passport revoked and without a travel document, Nawaz has good chance of being granted refuge. However, the political ramifications and clout will be much to bear. It could significantly hurt the PML-N future after it is already embroiled in a rift within and wants to see its chances improved in the next elections.
It is certain that Nawaz Sharif has no intention to return home anytime soon. He faces a myriad of legal cases and could be imprisoned for violating bail. He also faces a hostile political environment after he criticized state institutions while abroad. The self-imposed political exile has come at a huge cost for the PML-N but Nawaz is still unable to take the risk of returning back to the country.
In case the UK authorities force Nawaz Sharif to leave, he could possibly visit a third country where he could stay indefinitely such as Saudi Arabia and UAE. But without a passport, Nawaz would first have to apply for a temporary travel document. This is the prerogative of the Interior Ministry and Sheikh Rasheed is adamant that he will issue one if Nawaz returns to Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif’s troubles are far from over. As the PTI government had completed three years of tenure, there is uncertainty if Nawaz will confront the government or chose to stay safe abroad.