Cabinet gives in-principle 'conditional' approval to remove Nawaz's name from ECL

Updated November 12, 2019

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A cabinet meeting chaired by PM Imran Khan considered the issue of removing Nawaz Sharif's name from the ECL. — DawnNewsTV
A cabinet meeting chaired by PM Imran Khan considered the issue of removing Nawaz Sharif's name from the ECL. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at PM Office Islamabad on Tuesday. — PID
Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at PM Office Islamabad on Tuesday. — PID

The federal cabinet on Tuesday granted in-principle "conditional" approval to remove ailing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's name from the Exit Control List (ECL), government's chief spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan said.

Addressing a news conference after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, she said about "85-90 per cent" participants of the meeting were of the opinion that Nawaz should be allowed to go abroad for medical treatment provided he meets certain conditions, including submitting indemnity bonds.

Editorial: Nawaz Sharif’s health

She said Law Minister Farogh Naseem shared the recommendations given by the 14-member medical board examining Nawaz, the opinion of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and his own view with the cabinet regarding allowing the former prime minister to proceed abroad.

The prime minister then conducted a vote, in which a "majority" of the cabinet members favoured removing Nawaz's name from the ECL, revealed Awan, the special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting.

However, she said, there was a consensus of all members on the following:

  • Nawaz Sharif should not be given "unconditional relief"
  • He should be legally bound to surety bonds, indemnity bonds, security and fines imposed on him by courts
  • The permission to go abroad should be a "one-time waiver"
  • The relief should be "time-bound"

According to Awan, the above conditions were communicated to the Sharif family. The parameters that will bind the PML-N leader's family to ensure the surety and guarantees will be determined during the meeting of the cabinet sub-committee on ECL when it meets for the second time in the day at 9:30pm, she said.

Separately, prime minister's spokesperson Nadeem Afzal Chan told DawnNewsTV that the cabinet had given its sub-committee the mandate to decide the process of removing Nawaz's name from the no-fly list.

The final decision on the matter will be taken after the sub-committee formulates a position on the issue, Chan said.

He said several members of the cabinet had opposed striking the PML-N supremo's name off the ECL, adding that the prime minister gave his opinion after hearing the viewpoints of all members.

"The prime minister was of the opinion that Nawaz Sharif should go abroad for treatment," the spokesperson said.

He stressed that it is not the government, but the NAB and courts, which "have to be given guarantees" regarding Nawaz's time abroad.

The development comes after the cabinet sub-committee on ECL convened earlier in the day to prepare recommendations on the matter of removal of Nawaz's name from the no-fly list.

After nearly five hours of deliberations, the meeting ended without any decision, with Law Minister Naseem terming the issue "a bit complex".

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

Overpricing of vegetables

Awan during the presser said that the cabinet also discussed the overpricing of vegetables in markets.

She blamed the inflated rates on a shortage of perishable items, and the role of middlemen.

When questioned about Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Hafiz Shaikh's remarks that tomatoes are being sold for as low as Rs17 per kilogram, Awan quoted Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan as giving the example that if he decides the rate of peas at Rs5 per kg, the same is sold at Rs100 per kg in the markets.

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She revealed that the prime minister directed the planning ministry to maintain a stock of perishable items in the country sufficient for six months.

She said that perishable items, including tomatoes and onions, were earlier imported from India while in the current situation, the country is facing a shortage of such items. Measures will be taken to ensure that such problems do not arise in the future, Awan added.