Nawaz almost off ECL, may fly to London

November 09, 2019

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LAHORE: Maryam Nawaz arrives at an accountability court on Friday in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar 
Mills case—AP
LAHORE: Maryam Nawaz arrives at an accountability court on Friday in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case—AP

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was granted eight-week bail in the Al-Azizia corruption reference on health grounds last week, is likely to leave for London on Sunday (tomorrow) for treatment after the government on Friday decided to remove his name from the no-fly list.

A Sharif family source told Dawn they were making arrangements for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo’s travel to London after the family was informed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government that removing his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) was a ‘mere formality’.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, the staunch political rival of Mr Nawaz, in surprise remarks was quoted as saying he would have no objection if the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) allowed Mr Nawaz to proceed abroad.

The Sharif family’s source said: “We are making arrangements for Mian sahib’s travel to London on Sunday. We are consulting doctors whether to take him on an air-ambulance or a regular PIA flight or a foreign airliner.”

He added that Shahbaz Sharif and the elder Sharif’s personal physician Dr Adnan Khan would accompany his patient (to London).

The travel arrangements are being finalised after doctors categorically told Mr Nawaz that they had exhausted all options available in Pakistan and seeking treatment abroad was the only one left.

Maryam Nawaz is not going with her father as she had to surrender her passport to the Lahore High Court as surety against the bail granted to her in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case. She may explore the option of going to London later.

Imran gives go-ahead if ex-PM needs treatment abroad; Maryam rejects reports of deal

Mr Nawaz’s sons — Hasan and Hussain — and another daughter Asma, who live in London, will look after him.

In London, Ali Dar, son of former finance minister Ishaq Dar and a close relative to the Sharifs, told Dawn: “Our major concern is that still the doctors in Pakistan have not been able to get to the root cause of the sudden and intense platelet drop.

“Despite a lapse of more than two weeks, he [Nawaz] is still not stable and heart and kidney issues have further complicated the situation. That’s why the family is eager, at the earliest possibility, to take him to a setting that has the ability to diagnose the problem and treat it.”

‘Condition critical’

Talking to reporters in the court where she appeared in connection with the CSM case on Friday, Maryam Nawaz said: “Mian sahib’s condition is very critical and he must go abroad for diagnosis of his disease and treatment. Doctors of the government and private medical boards have exhausted all options and they have unanimously recommended his treatment abroad.”

The PNL-N leader said she wanted to stay with her father during his treatment, but her passport was with the court. “My thoughts and prayers will be with my father when he gets treatment,” she said, adding she was worried about the life and health of her father.

When asked will she take part in Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s sit-in, she said: “For politics whole life is there. I have lost my mother and now Mian sahib’s condition is critical and the whole nation is praying for him. My full concentration is on his health. I am looking after him 24/7,” she said.

In reply to a question if Mr Sharif’s travel abroad was the result of some deal, Maryam Nawaz lamented, saying, “those talking of deal should be ashamed of themselves.”

It may be pointed out that some government ministers, like Ghulam Sarwar Khan, are indirectly pointing towards ‘deal for the relief’ to the Sharif family.

Prime Minister Khan has, however, directed the team of his spokespersons and other party leaders not to politicise Mr Nawaz’s health.

The premier has said he won’t have any objection on removing Mr Nawaz’s name from ECL.

“The government has no issue with regard to Nawaz Sharif’s travel abroad. We want him to go abroad and have the best treatment out there,” the premier’s special assistant Naeemul Haq was quoted as having said at a private news channel.

`Formal request’

On Friday, Shahbaz Sharif submitted a ‘formal’ application to the interior ministry for removal of Mr Nawaz’s name from the ECL on ‘health grounds and [for] treatment abroad’.

“The interior ministry has referred the matter to the NAB to which the removal request was also sent. The medical reports of Nawaz Sharif received from the Sharif Medical City Lahore have been forwarded to standing medical board for their input and review,” a spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement.

It said the interior ministry had taken all necessary actions keeping in view the urgency of the matter as pleaded by Shahbaz Sharif.

“We will make our recommendations to the competent authority in view of the facts and after consulting all stakeholders,” the ministry said.

On Friday, Mr Nawaz’s platelet count dropped to 20,000 from 24,000. As his platelet count should be 50,000 and beyond for travel abroad, the doctors may give him high dose to increase his platelets, enabling him to undertake the travel.

Meanwhile, Dr Adnan Khan in a tweet said: “Nawaz Sharif is critically unwell, having unstable platelet count on maximal therapy; treatment response being suboptimal. The unexplained cause and uncertain diagnosis complicates the overall clinical scenario requiring advanced investigations & specialised care.”

‘No NRO-like deal’

After attending a meeting of government spokespersons held in Islamabad with PM Khan in chair, a close aide to the premier ruled out the possibility of any NRO-like deal for Mr Nawaz and said the case against him would continue in the court.

“The sentence of Nawaz Sharif [in Al-Azizia reference] has not been set aside,” said the aide while talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity.

It may be recalled that Prime Minister Khan has until recently been stating in no uncertain terms that no NRO-like concessions would be given to Mr Nawaz.

Special Assistant to PM Firdous Ashiq Awan said Mr Nawaz was seriously ill and Mr Khan had clear intention that “politics and health issues should be considered separately”.

She said if NAB gave its consent in favour of Mr Nawaz, then the matter will be referred to the cabinet committee headed by law minister for removal of his [Nawaz] name from the ECL.

Responding to a question, she said: “The prime minister was of the view that all legal formalities must be addressed in this regard.”

Talking about Maryam Nawaz, she said the government had so far not received any application from Maryam Nawaz for removal of her name from the ECL.

Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid told a private TV channel that NAB, too, will permit Mr Nawaz for leaving the country and the PML-N leader would fly to London on Sunday or Monday along with Shahbaz Sharif.

Mr Nawaz, who ruled the county for three times, was convicted in Panama Papers Leak case by the accountability court Islamabad and was sent to Adiyala Jail for seven years’ imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference, but the court acquitted him in a second reference related to Flagship Investments.

Mr Nawaz will have to approach to the government for extension of his bail in Al-Azizia case after expiry of the bail period in the end of December.

Atika Rehman in London also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019