An anti-corruption court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after he failed to appear in court to face corruption charges.
The special court indicted the former Pakistani leader last week, along with his daughter and son-in-law, for alleged corruption involving the family’s expensive London property.
Sharif, who is currently in London where his wife is undergoing medical treatment, has since skipped repeated hearings.
When the court reconvened on Thursday, Sharif’s lawyer requested the former prime minister be exempted from appearances to allow him to remain with his ailing wife.
But the judge rejected the request and directed authorities to arrest Sharif and bring him to the court on the date of the next hearing scheduled for November 3.
It was not immediately known whether Sharif plans to return from abroad, but he can be taken into custody as soon as he lands in Pakistan, unless he is granted bail permissible under Pakistani law.
Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband Muhammad Safdar, have all pleaded not guilty and declared the corruption charges “groundless,” “unfounded” and “frivolous.”
Sharif, 67, was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court and removed from office in July for failing to declare a monthly income from a Dubai-based company.
Pakistan's highest court also directed the anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to further investigate Sharif and conduct a trial.
The corruption case stems from documents leaked last year from a Panama-based law firm that disclosed the family used offshore wealth registered under the names of Sharif’s minor aged children to buy London property.
A close Sharif aide, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, immediately replaced him as prime minister because his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N) enjoys a majority in the parliament. In a controversial move, the party has since re-elected Sharif as its leader in a bid to maintain unity in PML-N, critics say.
During Thursday's judicial proceedings, Maryam and Safdar were present in the courtroom, though Sharif's two sons, who live in London and have also been charged in the same case, did not appear.