PML-N says 'no need' to submit further surety to secure Nawaz's removal from ECL

Updated November 12, 2019

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Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family is seeking permission for him to fly abroad. — Reuters/File
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family is seeking permission for him to fly abroad. — Reuters/File
Law Minister Farogh Naseem chairs a meeting of the cabinet sub-committee on ECL. — DawnNewsTV
Law Minister Farogh Naseem chairs a meeting of the cabinet sub-committee on ECL. — DawnNewsTV

A sub-committee of the cabinet met for the second time on Tuesday evening to prepare recommendations on the matter of the removal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's name from the no-fly list.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Law Minister Farogh Naseem said the sub-committee has reserved its decision in the matter which will be announced "as soon as possible".

"The matter will be decided on merit," he stressed, adding that the final decision will be taken by the federal cabinet on the sub-committee's recommendation.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, while speaking to reporters before the meeting, said the counsel for the Sharif family had been asked to specify the time period for which Nawaz will travel abroad and whether they can submit any surety bonds to meet the liability in cases faced by the former prime minister.

According to Akbar, the conditions are to ensure Nawaz's return to the country. "The court can question us tomorrow on what conditions the federal government allowed [Nawaz Sharif] to go abroad," he said.

Asked what will happen if the PML-N refuses to provide surety, Akbar said: "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, PML-N leader Ataullah Tarar said the party had already submitted surety bonds in the Lahore and Islamabad high courts to secure Nawaz's bail and that the issue of Nawaz's medical treatment was already discussed in the courts.

"There is no need to submit further surety at any forum," he said.

The sub-committee had convened earlier in the day, but after nearly five hours of deliberations, the meeting ended without any decision, with Law Minister Farogh Naseem terming the issue of striking Nawaz's name off the Exit Control List (ECL) "a bit complex".

The minister told reporters that the sub-committee would meet again at 9:30pm as participants of the meeting had been asked to bring along missing documentation.

Naseem indicted that some documents that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had to produce were missing and that the counsels for the applicant, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, have also been directed to produce additional documents because they were "not fully prepared".

"The matter cannot proceed if the documentation is not complete," the law minister said, adding that the meeting had already considered several aspects.

Naseem stressed that the sub-committee will decide the application "on merit".

The meeting, chaired by Naseem, was attended by Akbar, Nawaz's personal physician Dr Adnan Khan, PML-N leader Tarar and Health Secretary Momin Agha. Head of the medical board which was examining Nawaz at Services Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS), Dr Mahmood Ayaz, also appeared before the committee.

Interior Secretary Azam Suleman was also present in the meeting.

According to reports, the health secretary submitted three medical reports, one of which clearly stated that Nawaz needed to be shifted abroad for medical treatment.

The NAB prosecutor, who had been summoned to present the anti-corruption watchdog's stance on the matter, told the committee that the body had no objection to Nawaz being sent abroad for medical treatment on humanitarian grounds.

The counsel for the Sharif family, Barrister Munawwar Iqbal Dogal, said he presented legal arguments before the committee regarding the removal of Nawaz's name from the ECL.

The sub-committee will forward its recommendations to the cabinet, which will decide whether the former prime minister's name should be taken off the list. The cabinet meeting will be held today.

The sub-committee's meeting was called after NAB refused to decide whether former ailing prime minister Nawaz's name should be removed from the no-fly list. It is discussing an application filed by Shehbaz, who wants his elder brother to fly to London for better medical care.

'The sooner the better'

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that an air ambulance will arrive in Lahore on Wednesday so that Nawaz can travel abroad for medical treatment.

In a statement, Aurangzeb said: "According to doctors, the sooner Mohammad Nawaz Sharif is shifted abroad, the better it would be for his treatment."

She said that doctors will begin preparations to enable Nawaz to travel from today.

"Nawaz is already being administered with a high dose of steroids. His platelet count will be raised by injecting steroids and medicines so that he can travel."

Aurangzeb declared that Nawaz's health was deteriorating every day and doctors had called for an air ambulance for him on Monday.

The PML-N spokesperson added that the "biggest challenge" for doctors abroad will be to figure out the reason behind Nawaz's falling platelet count.

Request for Nawaz to go abroad

Nawaz was rushed from Kot Lakhpat jail to the hospital last month after his personal physician Dr Adnan raised an alarm over his deteriorating health. Doctors have been struggling to bring his platelet count — that had dropped to dangerous levels — back to normal.

PML-N President Shehbaz had last week submitted a request to the interior ministry as well as NAB for the removal of Nawaz's name from the ECL so that the former prime minister could travel abroad for medical treatment. Nawaz has been diagnosed with an immune system disorder and his condition is said to be "extremely critical".

“Nawaz Sharif has finally agreed to go to London after the doctors told him categorically that they had already exhausted all medical treatment [options] available in Pakistan and going abroad is the only option left,” a Sharif family source told Dawn last week.

In a statement, the interior ministry said last week that it had forwarded Nawaz's health reports received from Sharif Medical City, Lahore to the "Standing Medical Board" for their input and review.

The statement said that the ministry took all necessary actions keeping in view the urgency of the matter as pleaded by Shehbaz in his request.

There were reports that the former prime minister may leave for London on Monday; however, the procedure to remove his name from the no-fly list could not be completed. In addition, his platelet count remained unstable and, according to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, doctors continued to struggle to get his platelet levels up to the required mark for travel.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday said that "legal obstacles" to Sharif's departure were being removed as doctors had stressed that medical treatment abroad was needed to save his life.

“The government has given importance to the doctors' opinion,” Qureshi had told reporters in Multan.

“We pray to God for his recovery, so that he returns with good health and takes part in politics,” he added.

Nawaz, who was incarcerated after an accountability court found him guilty in the Al Azizia corruption reference, was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court on humanitarian grounds. He also obtained bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case, in which he is a suspect, from the Lahore High Court.

Nawaz's daughter Maryam will not be able to accompany her father abroad as she had to surrender her passport in order to secure her release on bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.