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November 16, 2019

LHC takes up Nawaz’s travel plea today

Top Story

November 16, 2019


Court dismisses federal government, NAB stance; Dr Adnan says any delay will further deteriorate Sharif’s health condition

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) gave its decision on Friday regarding the maintainability of the plea on the removal of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL), calling it admissible, Geo News reported.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and comprising Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, resumed the hearing of the case, where the federal government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted their replies in the court.

The LHC dismissed the NAB and federal government’s stance on the matter and adjourned the hearing until Saturday (today).

In its written verdict, the LHC said the federal government’s objection regarding the court’s jurisdiction was not right, adding the case falls under its jurisdiction and ordered the lawyers of the relevant parties to present their arguments today.

During the hearing, the federal government urged the court to maintain its condition of seeking a security bond from former prime minister Sharif. Additional Attorney General (AAG) Ishtiaq A Khan objected to the maintainability of the petition and requested that the petition be dismissed for being “non-maintainable”.

He contended that Sharif should approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) instead for removal of his name from the ECL, saying the federal government had placed his name on the list and the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the plea.

The government in its 45-page reply opposed the removal of Sharif’s name from the ECL without a security bond. It argued that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo was convicted which was why he should not be allowed to leave the country without submitting a security bond.

The NAB also submitted its four-page reply to the court. Following the submission of the response, the court took a recess for an hour to allow the petitioner’s counsel to read the responses.

Sharif’s counsel Amjad Pervez argued that the condition of furnishing Rs7.5 billion surety bonds was not based on any provision of law. He added the government’s condition carried no legal standing as the petitioner had been granted bail in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case by the LHC and his sentence in Al-Azizia reference had been suspended by the IHC.

He contended that Sharif’s name was placed on the ECL in the wake of pending cases against him. The counsel pointed out that the former prime minister had sent an application to the interior ministry for removal of his name from the ECL but the federal government issued the impugned order on November 13, allowing Sharif to proceed abroad for treatment only after furnishing indemnity bond. He further said Sharif had the fundamental rights under Articles 4 and 15 of the Constitution to move freely.

The court then asked the AAG to tell whether the fine imposed by the government was part of the accountability court verdict. To which, the law officer said the federal government had sought surety bond equivalent to the fine imposed by the Islamabad accountability court on Sharif. He added the PML-N leader’s sentence was only suspended in Al-Azizia reference and not set aside. The bench observed that the IHC apparently suspended the sentence of the petitioner and not the fine. Justifying the government’s move to seek surety bond, he argued that if a person allowed to travel abroad did not come back, the federal government would be held responsible, as in the case of former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

The court asked: “Does the ECL ordinance give the Centre authority to give permission for a one-time visit abroad?” To this, Pervez said the impugned order of November 13 was not based on any provisions of Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance 1981 and Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules 2010, empowering the federal government to impose extra conditions for his one-time permission to travel abroad especially after he had been granted bail by two different high courts.

He added Sharif was seriously ill and the medical board had suggested his treatment abroad. The counsel said the courts were there to take action if the petitioner violated their orders of bail and suspension. The government has no role in the whole matter, he added. The law officer sought time to verify when asked whether the impugned order of the government for the indemnity bond was a result of any consensus or whether the petitioner had been placed on the ECL on the recommendation of Lahore or Islamabad office of the NAB.

He also sought time to file para-wise comments on the petition, which the bench duly allowed. The bench also asked the law officer to assist it on a legal point as to whether the government had the power to put any condition for removing a name from the ECL if there was an order by the court.

Meanwhile, Dr Adnan, the personal doctor of former prime minister Sharif, said that any delay in PML-N supremo’s departure to London for medical treatment can further deteriorate his health.

In a post on Twitter, he said Sharif’s health was still critical. “Former PM NawazSharif’s health status remains critical.”

The reaction came after PML-N leaders and Sharif family members rejected government’s decision to allow former PM to go abroad for treatment for four weeks on one time condition after submitting Rs7 billion as indemnity bond. Addressing a press conference the other day, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif said the incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) wanted to take “ransom” from Sharif family in the name of indemnity bond.