LHC verdict on Nawaz's travel reinforces 'spirit of cabinet's decision', says PM's aide

Updated November 17, 2019

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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar addresses a press conference with Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan. — DawnNewsTV
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar addresses a press conference with Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan. — DawnNewsTV

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Sunday said that the Lahore High Court's (LHC) decision to unconditionally allow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment, in fact, "reinforces the spirit of the cabinet decision" on the issue.

He was addressing a press conference alongside Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan a day after the LHC allowed the former premier to travel abroad for four weeks, saying the duration could be extended based on medical reports.

In a blow to the government, which had placed a condition of indemnity bonds for Nawaz's travel, the court ordered the federal government to remove his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) without any conditions.

Akbar said the federal cabinet had granted a one-time permission for Nawaz to travel abroad on humanitarian grounds but the condition of indemnity bonds was placed in view of his past record. He said Nawaz had "broken promises" many times in the past, had received the certificate of "not being Sadiq (truthful) and Ameen (righteous)" from the Supreme Court, and several members of his family were proclaimed offenders.

The LHC, he noted, had in its verdict maintained the one-time permission granted to Nawaz by the federal cabinet as well as the time limit of four weeks, but the condition of indemnity bonds was suspended and replaced with undertakings from Nawaz and his brother PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif.

Akbar said the government would have had to approach the civil courts for enforcement of the indemnity bonds in case Nawaz refused to return to the country, but now the high court itself has taken undertaking from the Sharif brothers "keeping in view the spirit of the cabinet decision".

If Nawaz fails to abide by the undertaking it would constitute a serious contempt of court offence, the SAPM added.

He further observed that the court has granted access for a representative of the Government of Pakistan to verify the PML-N leader's medical reports while under treatment abroad.

"We think the Lahore High Court's short order reinforces the spirit of the cabinet decision," he said, adding that the surety desired by the government for Nawaz's return has come in the form of the undertaking. The LHC order will be placed before the federal cabinet on Tuesday, Akbar said.

'A victory for govt'

Attorney General Khan while interpreting the LHC order said it was "crucial" that the court said it would hear the PML-N petition further only if both Nawaz and Shehbaz confirm the permission would be a "one-time" incidence which would be for a specific time period.

Both of these things were incorporated by the court in its judgement from the cabinet decision, the law officer added.

He said the undertakings sought by the court showed that it "did not believe" that the Sharif brothers would comply with the conditions without a written assurance.

According to the AG, the LHC had stated that the condition of indemnity bonds imposed by the government was under judicial scrutiny, which meant that the issue had not reached finality and would be decided by the court. He noted that the court had also "only suspended", not nullified, the government's memorandum.

Khan said the LHC order is "stronger and more potent" than the indemnity bonds sought by the government because instead of the government having to go to civil courts to execute the bonds, both Sharif brothers have submitted undertakings before the LHC.

"Both Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif have submitted themselves to the court as guarantees," the top law officer said. "By placing themselves as guarantees, they can be exposed and they will."

"I think this (LHC order) is, in fact, a victory for the government because its decision was fully incorporated in the [judgement]," Khan concluded.

Answering a question, he said the federal cabinet will decide whether an appeal should be filed against the LHC order.

LHC decision hailed

After the high court's decision to permit Nawaz to travel abroad for treatment on Saturday, Shehbaz Sharif, the petitioner in the case, had hailed the decision, saying the prayers of his mother, the nation and supporters had been granted.

Shehbaz signed an undertaking which stated he would "ensure return" of his brother "within four weeks or on certification by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return back to Pakistan".

"I further undertake to provide/send the periodical medical report of the doctor duly notarized by the embassy to the registrar of this court," said the document signed by the PML-N president.

"I also undertake that if at any stage, the federal government has credible information that Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif is living abroad despite his fitness to travel, a representative from Pakistan's High Commission would have a right to meet with his physician(s) to verify or confirm about his health."

Following the court orders, Shehbaz had said that he would be accompanying his elder brother abroad.

"Initially, we are going to London but we will move to any other country as per doctors' advice," he said, adding that if needed, he would stay abroad with his brother.