Pakistan allows indicted opposition leader to travel abroad

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A top Pakistani court on Friday granted permission to the country’s ailing opposition leader, who has been charged with corruption, to travel abroad for medical treatment.

The Lahore High Court ruled that Shahbaz Sharif may travel abroad from May 8 to July 3. Sharif had petitioned the court, saying he is a cancer survivor who now needs treatment outside of Pakistan.

The development drew criticism from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, which said it will explore legal options to stop Sharif from leaving.

Sharif faces corruption charges in three separate court cases. He heads the opposition bloc in parliament and leads his brother’s Pakistan’s Muslim League party after Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister was disqualified from office.

The ex-premier and elder Sharif, convicted of corruption, lives in exile in London. He was released from prison in 2019 on bail to seek medical treatment abroad but never returned home. Islamabad last December started the process to reach an extradition treaty with Britain that would pave the way for the U.K. to hand over Nawaz Sharif.

Shahbaz Sharif was released on bail last month on a court order, about seven months after he was arrested by an anti-graft body over alleged involvement in money laundering.

Angered over Friday’s order, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry described the ruling as a “joke” that he said could help the younger Sharif escape the law like his brother did.

There was no immediate comment from Khan, who on Friday left on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia to boost economic ties with the kingdom.

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