ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Again ruling out the possibility of the government striking any National Reconciliation Ordinance-like concessional deal with the ailing Nawaz Sharif, Law Minister Farogh Naseem on Wednesday said: “One-time permission offered to the former prime minister to leave the country for four weeks can be extended if his health condition requires so”.
“At this stage, Mr Sharif has been allowed to leave the country for four weeks, but in case his doctors recommend further treatment he can prolong his stay abroad,” the law minister said at a joint press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, without mentioning for how long the PML-N supremo can stay abroad.
On the other hand, Mr Sharif turned down the government’s “conditional offer” and refused to furnish a surety bond, saying after submission of bail bonds in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Oct 29, when he was granted bail for eight weeks, there “is no need” to give another indemnity bond to the government.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) seems to be in a fix as it is yet to decide whether to approach the court for removal of its supreme leader’s name from the no-fly list. The main opposition party has called an emergency meeting of its leaders in Jati Umra, Lahore, on Thursday (today) to discuss the matter in presence of its legal brains, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.
PML-N in a fix over going to court; law minister defends move; Shujaat urges Imran to let ex-premier go
According to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, Shahbaz Sharif, the party’s president and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, would also hold a press conference on the matter on Thursday.
The law minister said in the light of the recommendations of the federal cabinet’s sub-committee on Exit Control List, the government had permitted Nawaz Sharif to stay in any foreign country for four months for his medical treatment provided Mr Sharif submit indemnity bonds amounting to over Rs7 billion to ensure his return within the prescribed timeframe.
“Four months’ permission to get medical treatment in any country being offered to Nawaz Sharif can be extended in case his deteriorating health requires more medical care abroad and his family requests for his further stay there,” said the law minister when asked that in view of the serious health condition of Mr Sharif how the government could asses that he would become stable only in four weeks.
The law minister, however, said the name of Mr Sharif was not being removed from no-fly list, but maximum relaxation of four weeks under the law was offered to the PML-N founding leader.
“We know about serious health condition of Nawaz Sharif that may require more time for treatment in a foreign country, but concerned laws do not permit us to give him initially more than four weeks to stay abroad,” he said.
The law minister said the sub-committee of the cabinet, after three marathon meetings on Tuesday, recommended four-week relaxation for Mr Sharif, which was approved by the cabinet.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had permitted Mr Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment solely on humanitarian grounds, he added.
When reminded that the Supreme Court, in March this year, had granted six-month bail to Mr Sharif in Al Azizia Steel Mills case while barring him from leaving the country, the minister opined that the judgement had become anfractuous as it was time-barred and another judgement of the IHC had come on Oct 29 that suspended the sentence of the PML-N leader on medical grounds and did not bar him from leaving the country.
When told that Mr Sharif had rejected the “conditional’ offer of the government, the law minister said: “Our offer should not be linked to the consent of Mr Sharif. Now it is up to him whether to accept it or not.” SAPM Shahzad Akbar said demanding submission of indemnity bond was not a unique decision because in many cases, even when the courts had allowed a person on no-fly list to leave the country, he had had to submit a surety bond in addition to the bail bond in the court.
“Tomorrow the government will be answerable to the people and courts, if it allows Mr Sharif to leave the country without any surety that he will definitely return and face his cases,” he added.
‘Shahbaz may move court’
A senior leader of the PML-N said: “The option of moving the court to seek directives for the government to remove the PML-N supreme leader’s name from the ECL is under serious consideration. It is highly expected that opposition leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif files a petition in a day or two.”
He said Nawaz Sharif had categorically refused to submit the surety bonds of over Rs7.5bn to the government and termed it “totally illegal” in the presence of the guarantees already presented to the court in connection with his bail on medical grounds. “There is no second thought as Mian sahib is not willing to give indemnity bonds to the government because this is not only illegal but a propaganda trap of Imran Khan in which we will fall prey,” the PML-N leader said.
“After meeting his legal team, Mr Sharif will decide (on Thursday) whether to file a petition in the court or not to pursue this matter anymore and continue to have his treatment here,” he said, adding that there was a lot of resentment in the party over the government’s decision which was full of hatred (for Nawaz Sharif).
“The government’s offer is the worst example of the government’s vendetta against the Sharif family,” Nawaz’s son Hussain Nawaz said in a tweet while reacting to the government’s move.
Mr Hussain said the government had in reality refused to allow his father to travel abroad for his treatment. “Why the government wasted two weeks after the courts granted him (Nawaz) bail?” he asked.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “The government must realise the gravity of the situation instead of playing a dangerous political game over Mr Sharif’s ailment.”
“It is sad that the person who left his wife on death bed to return to face the courts is being asked to fill surety bonds. The PTI is trying to get illegal and unconstitutional ransom by exploiting the medical complications of an ailing person. The PTI regime is trying to act as Supreme Court which is contempt of the judiciary,” she said.
She said the doctors have recently given high dose of steroids to Nawaz Sharif more than once for his expected travel abroad which may have negative effects on his health, and all this has gone in vain because of the government’s indecision.
Meanwhile, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat has asked PM Khan to allow Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad to seek medical treatment on humanitarian grounds. The government should better concentrate on steps to address unemployment and price hike, the Chaudhry of Gujrat said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry issued a memorandum regarding one-time permission for Mr Nawaz to travel abroad. In case Nawaz Sharif avails of this offer, he or his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif has to furnish “indemnity bond of over Rs7 billion (08 million UK pounds, $25 million and Rs1.5 billion) in favour and to the satisfaction of an additional secretary ministry of interior”.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019