Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday said that the government has instructed the attorney general to ask the Lahore High Court (LHC) to either bring back PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif or take action against Shehbaz Sharif for submitting in court a "fake" undertaking ensuring the return of his brother to the country.
Nawaz had left the country in 2019 after his seven-year sentence for corruption was suspended by the Islamabad High Court for eight weeks so he could seek medical treatment abroad. He never returned and was declared a "proclaimed offender" by multiple courts and "absconder" by the government.
The brothers were given the permission to travel abroad after they signed separate court-approved undertakings, with Nawaz saying that he would return to the country within four weeks, and Shehbaz stating that 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".
Talk of Nawaz's return has been making the rounds of late, with the topic addressed multiple times by government officials, including the prime minister, who thinks the self-exiled PML-N leader wouldn't come back without first striking a “secret deal”.
Chaudhry, in a wide-ranging press conference in Karachi today, said that the high court should have taken action against Shehbaz itself for submitting what he deemed was a "fake" undertaking based on the fact that Nawaz has not returned to the country despite more than two years having passed.
"Essentially, the high court should have taken suo motu notice, summoned Shehbaz and questioned him about the affidavit he submitted for his brother's return and whether he should be jailed for submitting a fake [document]," he said.
"But if this high court is not [taking action] against Shehbaz, then the government has no other choice but to become a party in the case."
"So will you go against Shehbaz in court?" a reporter asked the minister.
"We have told the attorney general to take this case up and request the high court to either bring back Nawaz or take action against Shehbaz for submitting a fake affidavit."
Finance, SBP bills
During the press conference today, Chaudhry also dispelled the impression that the government's allies were "displeased" and had expressed reservations about the Finance Supplementary Bill 2021 — also known as the mini-budget — and the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021.
He added that the finance bill had been tabled in the National Assembly and was expected to be passed by January 15 to 20.
The approval of the finance bill, seeking to amend certain laws related to taxes and duties, and the SBP bill, is necessary to ensure Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility is cleared by the International Money Fund's (IMF) Executive Board, which is scheduled to meet on Jan 12 to decide about the disbursement of a nearly $1bn tranche.
"Firstly, no one expressed any reservations," he said, adding that the PML-Q and the MQM were on board with its approval. "The finance bill that the government has tabled does not contain anything that should be opposed."
Chaudhry alleged that when PML-N leader Ishaq Dar was the finance minister, the SBP deputy governor used to help him launder money. "We don't want such institutions. We want strong institutions," he said, adding that the move was also a part of the PTI's manifesto.
The minister said that the central bank's autonomy would be in the country and the economy's interest, reiterating that the government's allies were behind it.
Responding to another question about the SBP, the minister stated that the government would appoint the board of governors for the central bank. "We have not pawned away the state bank to the IMF," he said, adding that the government had not borrowed money from the SBP even once during the last three years.
"It used to be so easy to call the state bank and tell them to print more notes, like what Nawaz and Dar did," he said. Lashing out at the former finance minister, Chaudhry said that Dar gave directions to print "trillions", which had drastically affected the economy.
"So you never [bind] institutions to the point where they are no longer capable of performing. We believe in independent institutions," he said.