Decision to send Nawaz Sharif abroad was PM Imran’s: Asad Umar

Published January 23, 2022
A combination photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif. — AFP/Reuters
A combination photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif. — AFP/Reuters

ISLAMABAD: A key member of the federal cabinet and one of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) top-tier leaders spilled the beans about the government’s decision to allow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to proceed abroad on medical grounds, saying the decision was “100 per cent taken solely by Prime Minister Imran Khan”.

Appearing on the Geo News programme Naya Pakistan, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said that he was one of six to eight senior PTI leaders in the room when the decision to send the former PM abroad was made.

He also revealed that there was a difference of opinion over whether the former PM should be allowed to leave.

However, he said the prime minister now believed that the medical reports on the basis of which the decision to allow Mr Sharif to leave the country for treatment was taken, were falsified.

PTI cancels ex-official Ahmed Jawad’s membership

During his line of questioning, programme host Shahzad Iqbal pointed out that the PM blamed the judiciary for letting the former prime minister get away and asked Mr Umar, who also heads the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC), whose decision was it to allow the elder Sharif to proceed abroad for treatment.

Clarifying his position, Mr Umar told Dawn that he made the remark in the context of the question that was being asked, i.e. whether permission to leave the country was given to Mr Sharif by the government or someone else.

“In response to that question, I said the government was fully independent to take its own decisions and the decision about Nawaz’s departure was solely taken by the prime minister,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif, who was convicted in a corruption case, was allowed to travel abroad for treatment in November 2019. In the past, the prime minister and his aides had tried to justify their decision several times, saying that the government had allowed Mr Sharif to depart on the basis of ‘genuine medical reports’.

Before his departure, while Nawaz Sharif was undergoing treatment at a hospital in Lahore, the prime minister had also claimed that he had secretly sent medical experts to inquire about his health.

Mr Asad also told Dawn that he was one of the people who had supported the decision to allow Mr Sharif to leave the country.

He said Dr Faisal Sultan and other medical experts had also gone through Nawaz Sharif’s medical reports and suggested that he should be allowed to proceed abroad.

“Medical experts were of the view that ‘most probably’ nothing will happen to Nawaz, but medical reports suggested that his condition could be life threatening,” he said.

Mr Umar claimed that in view of Nawaz’s medical history, in addition to his new ailment, the government was not ready to accept any blame for keeping Mr Sharif from getting treatment because of a political vendetta.

PTI leader’s membership cancelled

Separately, the ruling PTI cancelled the party membership of its former information secretary Ahmed Jawad for ‘violating’ party discipline.

According to the PTI announcement, Mr Jawad had levelled serious allegations on the party leadership and had been served with two show-cause notices this month.

However, the party said instead of replying to the notice, Mr Jawad instead hurled more accusations on the party leadership.

Dawn tried to reach Mr Jawad to obtain his point of view, but he could not be reached for comment.

Aid to Afghanistan

In a tweet on Saturday, PM Khan once again called upon the international community to provide immediate humanitarian relief to the millions of Afghans who were facing the imminent threat of starvation.

The PM also recalled that providing immediate relief to an impoverished Afghanistan was also obligatory under the unanimously-adopted UN Principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

In his tweet, the prime minister also linked to a news story, published in the UK daily Guardian, carrying excerpts from a letter written by former British premier Gordon Brown to UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, calling on her to help convene a donor conference to raise $4.5bn (£3.3bn) for Afghanistan.

In his article, Mr Brown had warned that more than 23 million people were at risk of starvation if aid did not materialise.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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