LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: In a dramatic turn of events, the government on Saturday delayed the removal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name from the no-fly list, thus forcing a change in his plan to leave for London for treatment on Sunday.
Both the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Ministry of Interior couldn’t arrive at a decision regarding removal of the name of the PML-N supremo from the Exit Control List (ECL) for one reason or another.
“Nawaz Sharif, 69, was due to leave for London on Sunday (today) morning on a PIA flight along with his brother Shahbaz Sharif. All arrangements were finalised but at the eleventh hour the PTI government played a trick and did not remove his name from the ECL,” a source told Dawn. He recalled the government on Friday had stated that removal of Mr Nawaz’s name from ECL was just a formality.
“We are wondering that despite Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assurances and his adviser Naeemul Haq and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s positive statements, Nawaz Sharif’s name could not be removed from the ECL, which shows there must be some issue somewhere in this respect,” he said, requesting anonymity.
Ailing PML-N supremo won’t be able to leave for London before Monday
“Mr Nawaz is in extremely critical medical condition, which is worsening with every passing moment as his platelets are not stabilising. He needs to be prepared for travel through potent steroids, and this dichotomy in the government’s statements and actions is only making matters worse,” said the source, adding this delay was “extremely dangerous” for him as every hour was important.
“Who will be blamed if complications arise from such impediments to his travel,” he said.
‘Passing the buck’
“It appeared that both NAB and the interior ministry acted consciously, passed the buck to each other and did not make any decision,” an official said.
NAB sought a medical report regarding Mr Nawaz’s health to make its decision whether to allow him to travel abroad or not.
A senior NAB official, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that the anti-graft watchdog had written to the interior ministry, in reply of the ministry’s letter, that the bureau required a media report of Mr Sharif to ascertain the “severity of his health”.
“Yesterday we received a letter of the interior ministry in which NAB’s consent was sought for removing Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL,” he said.
“In our reply, we have asked the ministry to present the medical report of Nawaz Sharif as mentioned in the [ministry’s] letter,” he added. He said NAB would take a decision once it received the medical report.
On the other hand, an Interior Ministry official said that the concerned staff remained in the ministry despite the fact that Saturday was the weekly holiday and waited for NAB’s reply.
The ministry expected that NAB would have no objection to PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif’s application seeking removal of Mr Nawaz’s name from the ECL. However, NAB asked for the medical report.
On Friday Mr Nawaz, convicted in the Al-Azizia corruption case, was allowed in principle to travel abroad for seeking medical treatment while his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who is on bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case, has to stay in the country till further orders, according to a decision taken by PM Khan.
Interior Ministry’s letter to the NAB said that health reports of Nawaz Sharif, received from the Sharif Medical City Lahore, had been forwarded to a medical board for their input and review. “Now this matter will be taken up on Monday,” the official said.
“The ministry has taken all necessary actions keeping in view the urgency of the matter as pleaded by Shahbaz Sharif in his request and will forward the matter to the competent authority in view of the facts and after consulting all stakeholders,” it added.
Special Assistant to the PM on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan was not available for comment on the matter. However, a member of the federal cabinet told Dawn that the government seemed to be stuck in a catch-22 situation.
“The government wants NAB to share some part in the permission being given to Mr Nawaz for travel abroad, but NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal seems cautious,” he said.
When asked had PM Khan changed his mind because of the NRO (deal) echoing from almost all quarters, the minister said: “This is not the case.”
When quizzed whether Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s prolonged sit-in had got anything to do with it or were there any differences between the premier and the establishment over Mr Nawaz’s departure, he said he was not sure of.
Meanwhile, Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid claimed that two political parties have cashed in on Maulana Fazl’s sit-in.
“I am clearly telling you that two parties (PML-N and PPP) have cashed in on the sit-in. And for Maulana sahib, I can just pray,” he said while responding to queries at a presser on Saturday.
“The government has dealt with Nawaz Sharif’s case on humanitarian grounds keeping in view his deteriorating health. I wholeheartedly pray for his health and whatsoever Imran Khan has done to allow him to go abroad for medical treatment it is the need of the hour,” he added.
The minister predicted that soon the cases against PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari would close one by one on the basis of plea bargain.
Khalid Hasnain from Lahore also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2019