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Govt, PML-N firmly dig in

Top Story

November 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government after detailed deliberations on Wednesday accepted the application of opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif to permit former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for four weeks for treatment subject to submission of an indemnity bond of Rs7 billion.

However, the PML-N has rejected the government condition and said it won’t submit any bond under any circumstances. The government wanted that the PML-N supremo’s brother Shahbaz Sharif or his daughter Maryam Nawaz should submit on his behalf surety bond equivalent to the fines imposed on him in the two corruption cases.

Related: PTI leader, MQM senator oppose govt conditions

Announcing the government decision here at a press conference, Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farogh Nasim flanked by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said it was a one-time permission only for four weeks.

“The former prime minister had to return to the country after recovering from the illness as he is a convict in a corruption case and under trial in another one,” he said. The government, he said, was seeking the indemnity bond as a precaution to respond to the court’s queries in case Nawaz Sharif did not return to the country.

More: Ch Shujaat asks Imran to be cautious on Nawaz

Farogh Nasim said keeping in view Nawaz’s medical reports of the Sharif Medical City and the Medical Board of Punjab government, the sub-committee considered the application for removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) on humanitarian grounds. He, however, clarified that the assurances being sought from the Sharif family in that regard were a legal requirement, which should not be used for political point scoring.

He said the Sharif family had a right to reject the government’s decision or to challenge it in in a court of law. The minister said the duration for Nawaz’ stay abroad could be extended subject to his health condition according to the law and regulations. He cited some court precedents, where the convicts were given one-time permission to go abroad for treatment after taking indemnity bonds side by side surety bonds. The Sharif family had been asked to provide the indemnity bond and not the surety bond, which was the prerogative of courts only, he added.

Read also: Nawaz Sharif — a convict with dubious convictions

The minister said the country where Nawaz Sharif would get treatment would also be intimated about the conditions set for his travel abroad. Responding to a question about General (R) Pervaiz Musharraf, who was allowed to travel abroad for treatment, Farogh Nasim said he was not been convicted in any case, while Nawaz was convicted in a corruption case.

Special Assistant Shahzad Akbar said the decision to permit Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for treatment was taken purely on merit and according to law. “It would be a one-time permission and his name would not be removed from the ECL as he was convicted in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills graft reference and was facing other cases, including Chaudhry Sugar Mills,” he added.

Shahbaz Sharif will hold an important press conference today (Thursday) to discuss the developing situation with regard to the removal of Nawaz Sharif's name from the ECL. Shahbaz has also called an important meeting of the PML-N's senior leaders today.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said terming the government’s decision to allow Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for treatment as prejudicial by the opposition was highly deplorable.

In a series of tweets, she said the decision was taken purely on humanitarian grounds. She said it is purely an issue of health of a citizen and it has nothing to do with the problems of the PTI and PML-N. She said the PML-N’s reaction shows that they want to do politics on Nawaz Sharif’s health.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the government did enough for Nawaz Sharif by allowing him to travel abroad on terms and conditions so there was no harm in providing bond for the sake of his life.

Talking to a private news channel, he said Imran Khan was so generous and kind-hearted as he took this tough decision purely on humanitarian grounds.

"It is very difficult to let Nawaz Sharif go abroad when he is convicted by the court. Moreover, the nation will question Imran Khan and PTI if the ex-prime minister did not return to the country to face charges as courts have already declared Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz absconders," he said.

He said people did not believe that Nawaz Sharif is actually ailing and will return after recovering as his party was known for dodging the nation through such tactics.

To a question, he said he had not seen a single example throughout his 16 years of law practice in which a convicted person was released on health issue and recommended to move abroad for the medical treatment. He said every prisoner should have the same rights and must be treated equally.

The PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the government is playing a dangerous game with Nawaz Sharif s health. In a statement, Marriyum said the government decision to make the removal of Nawaz’ name from ECL conditional to the submission of indemnity bond was based on "Imran Khan's biased attitude and revenge politics".

She said surety bond had already been submitted and constitutional and legal requirements had been met at the time of securing Nawaz' bail from high courts. "A government court cannot be established above the court," the spokesperson said, adding that the government demand to submit security bond was not acceptable to the party.

She accused the government of acknowledging the gravity of Nawaz's health on one hand while on the other hand "creating hurdles" in the way of his immediate treatment abroad.

The PML-N's Muhammad Zubair said while speaking to Geo News that the government was playing politics as the move to allow conditional permission to the former prime minister held no legal value.

"They are playing politics over this decision," he said. Zubair said that Nawaz was a political leader and his decisions would have political implications for the country.

"It’s not so simple -- give money and go abroad," he said. "The PML-N told everyone about its stance yesterday about the decision of the sub-committee. We don't think these bonds have any legal value," he said.

In response to a question, Zubair criticised Law Minister Farogh Naseem, stating that he had not asked for bond when Pervaiz Musharraf had requested the courts to allow him to go abroad for medical treatment.