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November 13, 2019

Seeking bonds from Nawaz Sharif unjustified: top lawyers

November 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Top legal experts are unanimous that the government’s demand from Nawaz Sharif to deposit security bond to leave the country is unjustified as it has no jurisdiction or authority to do so. Instead of putting conditions to remove the former premier’s name from ECL, the federal government should have referred the matter to the court.

Related: Nawaz Sharif refuses to leave as govt asks for billions

“Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s conviction is suspended and he has already deposited surety bonds to secure his bail. The government has the authority of putting or removingsomeone’s name on ECL, but in Nawaz Sharif’s case it is an unjustified act because the court has already allowed him to get medical treatment of his choice. The government’s decision of removing Nawaz Sharif’s name from ECL conditionally is against the court’s verdict,” believe the experts.

Talking to The News, Abid Hassan Minto — one of Pakistan’s top legal mind — said: “Nawaz Sharif was convicted by the court and then he has been granted bail. Whether he is allowed to go abroad for his treatment or not it is up to the federal government. However, this step is unjustified because the court has allowed him to get medical treatment of his choice. The conditional removal of his name from ECL and submitting the surety bond is unjustified.”

Read more: No division in cabinet over Nawaz’s removal from ECL, says Ijaz Shah

Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid said the government’s concerns are justified as it doesn’t know whether Nawaz Sharif will come back or not. However, it should have consulted the court and request the court to ensure his return either through surety bonds or anything else. The federal government should not have done this by its own after the court’s verdict”, said Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid.

Former President Supreme Court Bar Association Kamran Murtaza while talking to The News said Nawaz Sharif’s conviction has been suspended by the court. Since he has already deposited security bonds to secure his bail, how can the government demand surety bonds to let him leave the country.

“The government has no jurisdiction or authority to demand for the surety bonds. Only the courts have this authority. Therefore, I believe this demand is unwarranted. The complainant should consult the court against this condition”, said Mr Kamran Murtaza.

Talking to The News, Advocate Azhar Siddique said although the government is fully authorized to stop Nawaz Sharif from leaving the country but I personally believe this would be unjustified.

“The Islamabad High Court has not suspended his conviction. It rather has given Nawaz Sharif a conditional bail to get medical treatment. The conviction is still intact, therefore, he cannot leave the country unless the IHC allows him. I believe Nawaz Sharif should have consulted the IHC to seek its permission for his medical treatment abroad”, said Mr Azhar Siddique.

He said the Lahore High Court decision is different from IHC’s because Chaudhry Sugar Mills case is still on the inquiry stage and the LHC can allow him to go abroad. However, Al-Azizia is totally different because Nawaz Sharif has been convicted in this case and he needs IHC permission if he want to go abroad for his medical treatment.

News desk adds: Asking questions from Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi in Geo News programme "Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada kay Saath", Shahzeb said the Lahore High Court (LHC) directed him to deposit Rs20 million surety bonds as it granted bail to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. Also, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) granted him bail in Al Azizia case for Rs4 million surety bonds. But the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government wanted the former prime minister to deposit Rs5.5 billion as surety money for going abroad, as that amount was imposed as fine on him in the Al Azizia reference verdict.

Khanzada asked Minister Zaidi how come the government reached the decision that such a big amount should be demanded from an ailing Nawaz for allowing him to go abroad and was it aimed at dispelling an impression that Nawaz Sharif was going abroad as a result of a deal?

The minister said the court had granted Nawaz bail in both cases and the government respected the decision. However, placing or removing any citizen’s name on the exit control list (ECL) was a prerogative of the federal cabinet. When the Nawaz Sharif matter came for discussion, the cabinet members gave their opinion. Legal advice was also sought. There was a collective wisdom and a consensus decision by the cabinet members that surety money should be sought from Nawaz Sharif for going abroad.

When Shahzeb asked if there is any precedent where the government sought surety bonds from a person who had already secured a bail from court, former special public prosecutor general of NAB, Imran Shafiq, said that it was the sole authority of the government under the rules framed in 2010 or the 1981 Ordinance to place someone on the ECL. The rules state only the condition of the cases — corruption, terrorism etc, he said, adding the authority that can place a person on the ECL, is also empowered to remove the name from the ECL. The law does not provide any mechanism whereby the government can impose a condition like surety bond etc, Imran Shafiq maintained. Such a condition is not provided for in the law, and it has no legal value. He added.

Shahzeb’s put the same question to noted legal expert Rashid A. Rizvi who said the government’s decision is unique and unprecedented as it is the first since the ordinance was promulgated in 1981. He said Nawaz Sharif was being discriminated against. If the government had reservations, it could have moved the courts concerned to enhance the amount of surety bonds, Rizvi added, saying the government’s decision was shocking, given Nawaz Sharif’s serious medical condition.

To a query that if Nawaz doesn’t return after going abroad, do the courts have the authority to attach his assets by declaring him absconder, Rashid A. Rizvi said, “Indeed. In that case he would stand convicted and the lower court’s decision would be maintained. If he doesn’t return, he would be in big trouble.”