ISLAMABAD - Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has once again changed his homecoming plan as he has decided to hold a consultative meeting with the party leaders and enquire after the health of his wife in London first.

Sources in the party informed The Nation that Nawaz Sharif was most likely to fly to London today while Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would also be leaving for London the same day for the meeting.

The sources added that some other senior party leaders including Foreign Minister Kh Asif are likely to join them in London. However, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and some other party leaders, who could not join them in London, would be attending the meeting through video link.

Some senior parliamentarians, though unaware of former premier’s London visit before returning back to Pakistan, were adamant that he (Nawaz Sharif) would return on November 2 and definitely be attending the court proceedings on Nov 3.

A senior party leader, who did not want to be named, said that actually the main meeting would be held between the two brothers on the way forward on political and legal fronts. He further said that they would try to narrow down the difference of opinion on handling the situation. The chief minister is averse to the hostile policy and criticism on the judiciary and the establishment by Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and the leaders with hawkish tendency surrounding her, he said. He added the CM wanted to pursue conciliatory course to carve out way forward.

Former premier Nawaz Sharif was also referring his ouster to some conspiracy and though not clearly mentioning the establishment behind all this but indirectly giving the same impression.

The legal team of Nawaz Sharif had advised him to join the court trial as after the separation of the cases of his sons—Hussain and Hassan Nawaz--- the corruption references had already lost its legal strength, but in the face of the changed mood of the accountability court and National Accountability Bureau hierarchy under its new chairman, he was compelled to review his decision.

Absconding from the NAB court proceedings has both the legal and political implications as the court would be issuing his non-bailable arrest warrants as cautioned by the judge on previous date of hearing while the party would face enormous damage in political arena if Nawaz Sharif absconds from the trial and eventually be declared proclaimed offender like his sons.

On previous date of hearing, Accountability Court judge Muhammad Bashir had issued bailable arrest warrants for Nawaz Sharif, turning down his request of granting exemption from in-person presence during the trial, with caution that in case he skips the hearing on next date the court would issue his non-bailable arrest warrants.

The court had also summoned Ch Rifat, who had given Rs50 lakh surety bond for Nawaz Sharif, on next date of hearing to ensure the presence of the accused. The court had further said that from Nov 3 onward the court would take up the hearing in these corruption references against Sharif family on day to day basis, the point also worrisome for Sharifs.

The mounting pressure from opposition parties which were criticising National Accountability Bureau’s going soft on Sharifs, while coming down harsh on PPP leaders facing corruption cases of similar nature has also baffled the former premier making him extra cautious about his return plan.

A source in the party said that the London meeting between the two brothers would be crucial and it would define the future course of action by the ruling PML-N and Sharif family whether the party would be moving forward on the confrontational course or would go for rapprochement with institutions, as demanded by a sizeable majority in the ruling party.

NAWAZ WILL RETURN ON NOV 2: PERVAIZ

Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to return to Pakistan on November 2, Senator Pervaiz Rashid told a news channel on Saturday.

Pervaiz Rashid said Nawaz Sharif would also appear before the accountability court on November 3. Earlier, the former prime minister had deferred his plan to return and a new date (January 7) of his arrival was announced.