ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s aide on accountability along with top law officer on Sunday claimed that the Lahore High Court (LHC) order to allow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment on humanitarian grounds had “reinforced” the stance of the government that wanted some assurance to ensure his return to the country.
PM Imran Khan has asked legal wizards of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to review the court order, as a decision on removal of the name of the opposition party’s supreme leader from the no-fly list is expected in the federal cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday.
Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar at a joint press conference with Attorney General Anwar Mansoor announced that the government would not challenge the court order though federal minister Fawad Chaudhry wanted that the LHC decision should be challenged in the Supreme Court.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo was allowed on Saturday to travel abroad to have his medical treatment in any country initially for a period of four weeks, extendable on the basis of medical reports. Sharing the government stance about his stay abroad, Law Minister Farogh Naseem recently told a press conference that the ex-premier’s stay “can be extended if required by his health condition”.
Arrangements are being finalised to shift Mr Sharif to London through an air ambulance for medical treatment as the government decision on removal of his name from the no-fly list is expected on Tuesday.
“We believe that LHC has reinforced our stance and bound not only Shahbaz Sharif but also Nawaz Sharif under strong commitments,” said Mr Akbar in a press conference held at the Press Information Department (PID) auditorium.
Shahzad says the country where PML-N leader gets treatment will be asked to ensure his return
“If they [Nawaz and Shahbaz] do not return to the country, they will not only become offenders of the government but the court also,” he added.
In sharp reaction to the statement, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and the attorney general had committed contempt of court in their press conference and asked the government not to pretend as a “court”.
The PM’s aide on accountability said: “The government will inform the country, wherever Nawaz Sharif will go, that our convict is coming to you and make sure that he returns to Pakistan after his medical treatment.”
The ex-premier had assured the LHC in an affidavit that he would return to Pakistan after medical treatment.
Last Tuesday, the federal cabinet had permitted the former premier to travel abroad for medical treatment with the condition that he should furnish indemnity bond of over Rs7 billion to ensure his return within four weeks. The amount was equal to the fine imposed on him at the time of his conviction by Accountability Court of Islamabad in Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Avenfield properties cases.
However, the LHC allowed him to proceed abroad without any such bond but with an undertaking that he would definitely return to Pakistan.
Mr Akbar told the presser that the federal cabinet had granted Mr Sharif one-time permission to travel abroad on humanitarian grounds with the condition of indemnity bonds in wake of his past record.
The PM’s aide said the high court keeping in view the spirit of the cabinet decision had sought undertaking from the Sharif brothers for the convict’s return to the country.
Attorney General Mansoor said the court would hear the PML-N petition further only if the Sharif brothers confirmed the permission would be a one-time for a specific time period.
“Both of these things were incorporated by the court in its judgement from the cabinet decision,” the AG said, adding that 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.
Mr Mansoor said the condition of indemnity bonds imposed by the government was under judicial scrutiny. This meant that the issue had not reached finality and would be decided by the court later, he added.
“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,” he added.
“Both Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif have submitted themselves to the court as guarantees,” the top law officer said. “By placing themselves as guarantees, they can be and will be exposed.”
“The court’s decision is a victory of the government because its [the government] concerns have fully been incorporated in the judgement,” the attorney general added.
Meanwhile, PM Khan directed the legal team to present its report to the cabinet after reviewing the verdict and the government’s strategy with regard to the verdict would be devised at a meeting of the federal cabinet.
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had filed the plea in the LHC seeking removal of Nawaz’s name from the Exit Control List. It also opposed the government’s condition that the former PM had to pay Rs7 billion indemnity bonds before leaving the country.
LHC ‘endorsed’ cabinet decision
Special Assistant to the PM on Information Fridous Ashiq Awan said that the LHC allowed Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad under “tougher” conditions. She said the court endorsed almost 80 per cent decision of the federal cabinet regarding removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from no-fly list.
She said she hoped that after the court decision and his departure Nawaz Sharif would never say Mujhe Kyun Nikala [why I was removed].
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019