In an apparent effort to neutralize the growing popularity of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan in Punjab, provincial chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced that he intends to bring back his foreign assets to Pakistan.
"Chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has decided to transfer his foreign assets – in which his personal investment is not more than 18% and the rest of the amount is in the form of loans – back to Pakistan after selling them off and clearing all financial obligations," said Pervaiz Rashid, a spokesman for Sharif.
Imran Khan has been time and again targeting the chief minister and his elder brother, former premier and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, for having foreign assets.
Khan is reportedly gaining ground in Pakistan's most populous province of 90 million.
The Punjab government has also initiated several sports projects to counter Khan's moves.
Sources believe that Nawaz Sharif too will announce plans to bring back his foreign assets at an "appropriate time" to gain political mileage.
"The total size of foreign investments of the chief minister is not more than Rs 30 million, which were made by him while he was in exile in Britain. This was done to arrange finances for him and his family while he was being treated for a serious disease in London," said the spokesman.
After Shahbaz Sharif's return from Britain, no additional investments had been made, Rashid said.
"The process of selling off the chief minister's assets in Britain and paying off bank dues has already been started," he said.
The spokesman said Shahbaz Sharif launched the business in Britain simply to earn a living the difficult days of his exile "when dictator Pervez Musharraf made it virtually impossible for the Sharifs to earn their livelihood in Pakistan by applying a spate of nefarious tactics".