The federal cabinet on Tuesday decided against allowing Maryam Nawaz permission to fly abroad, maintaining the PML-N vice president's name on the exit control list (ECL), government's chief spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan announced.
Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Awan did not specifically talk about the decision taken by the cabinet regarding removal of Maryam's name from the no-fly list, until she was asked about the case.
Awan, the special assistant to the prime minister on information, said a total of 24 cases were brought before the cabinet through an interior ministry summary in which no "VIP's name" was highlighted. She added that out of the total 24, it was decided to add four names to the ECL, remove eight names from the list, the decision on eight cases was deferred and the request to remove one name was rejected.
"The cabinet unanimously rejected the request to remove the name from ECL of the VIP personality you are inquiring about," she told reporters, referring to Maryam.
Awan said the cabinet showed consensus on the implementation of "one law and uniform law" throughout Pakistan and endorsed the recommendation of the cabinet sub-committee on ECL, which had opposed the request to strike Maryam's name off the ECL.
Answering a question, the government spokesperson said the cabinet had decided to remove the name of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam's father and former prime minister, from the ECL after "clear instructions" were given by the high court.
"The court had recommended that the cabinet remove his (Nawaz's) name from the ECL and court orders were honoured," Awan said, adding that in Maryam's case the recommendation of the sub-committee was endorsed.
Speaking on the cabinet's 20-point agenda, Awan also shared various decisions taken regarding appointments in different government departments.
Maryam petitions LHC
Maryam has in the past month approached the Lahore High Court twice with a request to have her name removed from the no-fly list.
Following her first request, the high court had, on December 9, disposed of the petition and directed the federal government's review committee to decide on the matter within seven days.
However, when the government did not act upon the court order, Maryam lodged another petition on December 21, seeking removal from the ECL so she could travel abroad to meet her ailing father.
Taking up her petition, the court had once again directed the PTI-led government to inform Maryam on its decision regarding removal of her name from the ECL. Adjourning the hearing of the petition till December 26, the court had asked Maryam to wait for the federal government's decision on the matter.
During the hearing of the second petition, the court had asked how long it had been since its earlier order was issued, in response to which Maryam's lawyer, Advocate Amjad Pervez, said it had been two weeks since the directive was issued to the government but no decision had yet been taken on the matter.
Pervez added that Maryam's representative, Atta Tarrar, had also appeared before the government's review committee but still no decision was taken.
The court then asked Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Ishtiaq A. Khan, who was representing the federal government, if a decision had been taken on removing the PML-N vice president's name from the ECL.
Khan said the review committee presents its recommendation to the cabinet, which then decides on the matter.
Justice Anwarul Haq Pannu noted that though the government had yet to decide on the matter, he had read in the newspaper on Monday that the government would not allow her to go abroad.
"The government has to take a decision, and they should do so. How are they giving a statement before the decision is taken?" he had asked.
On Sunday, senior lawyer and aide to the prime minister Dr Babar Awan had said that the subcommittee of the federal cabinet that deals with ECL cases had rejected Maryam's plea.
“The subcommittee is part of the cabinet and a formal announcement to bar Maryam from travelling abroad will be made by the federal cabinet in its meeting [on Tuesday],” Awan had said.
Drug prices reduced
Addressing the presser alongside Awan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza announced that the cabinet decided to reduce the prices of 89 essential and life-saving medicines.
The reduction of 15 per cent is in line with the government's 2018 drug pricing policy, Dr Mirza said.
He said the prime minister also issued directions to review the medicine pricing policy within two months and draft it so as to further ease the burden on the public.
According to Dr Mirza, a comprehensive national medicine policy will be announced in the coming weeks to reform the pharmaceutical sector in the country.