Off the ECL

 
November 17, 2019

A division bench of the LHC has allowed three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for urgent medical treatment. The court has also said that the duration could be...

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A division bench of the LHC has allowed three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for urgent medical treatment. The court has also said that the duration could be extended, based on medical reports and that the government officials will be able to contact Nawaz through the Pakistani embassy. The court has essentially upheld the petition filed by Shahbaz Sharif, asking why the government had placed a condition of indemnity or surety bonds worth Rs7 billion before permitting Nawaz Sharif to proceed overseas. The PML-N petition had pointed out that the former prime minister had already been issued bail in the two corruption cases against him, and that surety bonds were not a legal requirement.

The refusal by the LHC to uphold the government’s plea places the PTI administration in an extremely awkward and embarrassing position. Senior politicians and lawyers had advised the government not to take the step it took and challenge the departure of Mian Nawaz Sharif, whose deteriorating health conditions cannot be diagnosed by the government’s own panel of doctors which includes some of the country’s top experts. Even the key allies of the PTI, including the PML-Q, whose leaders, the Chaudhry brothers, are certainly no friends of Nawaz, had urged that he be permitted to proceed overseas. So had the MQM, the GDA and others. By disregarding their views, the PTI singled itself out for criticism, to put it mildly. It would have done well to have gained for itself an image as a just government by permitting Nawaz Sharif to obtain the medical help he needs. Attempting to place conditions on this only makes the government look draconian and insensible.

At this juncture, distasteful questions like why the PML-N government was unable to set up better hospitals or why Nawaz should not be treated like any other prisoner simply add to the ugliness. In fact, every prisoner should be treated with concern and consideration for his or her health and the government should be attempting to do that. We hope now there will be no further delay in removing Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL since any unnecessary delay could be dangerous. Already, the whole episode has been an unfortunate saga of constant back and forth, starting from the bail to the government conceding to taking his name off the ECL to the demand for surety. The attorney general, however, has said that, once the detailed order is available, the cabinet would decide the matter and that the government does reserve the right to challenge the court order. What would be far better, though, is for the government to now try a hand at repairing the damage it has inflicted upon itself.


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