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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday allowed ailing Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment without furnishing any indemnity bond.
Earlier, both the government and the Sharif brothers rejected each other’s drafts of undertakings and could not agree on the terms of a court-suggested draft as well.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government had placed the condition of indemnity bonds worth Rs7 billion for removing Nawaz Sharif’s name from the exit control list (ECL). However, the court ordered the federal government to remove his name without any condition.
In its short order, two-member LHC bench, headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najfi, ruled that in case Nawaz's health did not improve, time period could be extended in the light of the Islamabad High Court order, given on Oct 29. The court declared that the government officials would be able to contact Nawaz through the Pakistan embassy.
As the deadlock persisted between the government and the Sharif brothers during the day-long proceedings over the terms of Nawaz Sharif's travel abroad, specifically his return to Pakistan, the LHC said it would draft its own undertaking for former premier's travel abroad.
Earlier, both siblings and the government counsel could not reach an agreement on wording of the draft and its terms. When asked about the court-recommended draft, Shahbaz’s lawyer Ashtar Ausaf said it was acceptable to the party, though the government lawyers expressed concerns over it, which were later rejected by the court.
The federal government counsel had taken the proposed draft to the higher authorities.
According to the court-approved undertaking, Nawaz assured that he would return to the country “within four weeks”.
Earlier, during the hearing, Shahbaz submitted draft of initial undertaking in the court, saying that he would “facilitate” Nawaz’s return to Pakistan following his treatment abroad. However, the federal government lawyer objected over it as a time-frame was missing in it.
The LHC had asked for a written affidavit from the Sharif family, guaranteeing that Nawaz would return to Pakistan after he would regain health.
Shahbaz’s lawyer submitted a two-page draft of the affidavit in the court, which said: “Nawaz Sharif will return to the country as soon as his health stabilises. He [Nawaz Sharif] will face his cases as soon as he returns to the country.”
The affidavit further said, “I (Shahbaz Sharif) undertake to ensure return of my brother Mian Nawaz Sharif within four weeks or as and when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return to Pakistan.
“I further undertake to provide /send the periodical medical reports of the doctor, duly notarised by the embassy to the Registrar of the court.
“I also undertake that if, at any stage, the federal government has credible information that Nawaz is living abroad despite his fitness to travel, a representative from Pakistan’s High Commission would have a right to meet with his physician(s) to verify or confirm about his health.”
A draft was also submitted by the government which read, “Nawaz Sharif will travel abroad for medical reasons. Whenever, the doctors will declare Nawaz fit, he will return to the country.”
The draft said, “The federal government has the power to ask Nawaz to return to the country any time.
“Shahbaz Sharif should submit an undertaking saying that if Nawaz Sharif does not return to the country, he (Shahbaz) will pay the fine,” the draft said.
However, the draft submitted by the government lawyer was rejected by Shahbaz’s lawyer as unconstitutional. The court suggested that the word “facilitate” be replaced with “ensure” in the undertaking, submitted by Shahbaz and the order was complied with.
Later, Nawaz Sharif also furnished an affidavit which reads as under, “I do hereby undertake to return to Pakistan, as per my past record, to face the process of law and justice within four weeks or as soon as I am declared healthy and fit to travel back to Pakistan by my doctors.
“I also do hereby bind myself to the undertaking given by my brother Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif.”
Interestingly, the Sharif brothers submitted their undertakings on Rs50 stamp paper, each.
The court also ordered that Nawaz’s medical report be presented.
The additional attorney general requested that the government’s draft be made part of the court order.
Shahbaz’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz told the court that former prime minister was ready to assure the court that he would return to Pakistan after he recovers. He added that Nawaz Sharif was going abroad on the recommendations of doctors.
The court also asked the PML-N president what role he would play to ensure that Nawaz returns to Pakistan.
A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najfi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, started hearing the petition at 11:30am, took four breaks, and pronounced the order in about six hours, at about 6pm.
During the hearing, Justice Najfi remarked that in his opinion, it was not fair for the government to place conditions after the Islamabad High Court had granted bail to Nawaz Sharif. If Nawaz’s health improves, the federal government’s board can examine him, the bench pointed out.
After hearing arguments, the court presented its own draft for the undertaking and handed it over to lawyers of both sides for review. The government lawyer said he had some reservations on the draft, prepared by the court.
The court, however, announced a four-week relief for the ailing former premier.
The court clarified that the doctors in United Kingdom would be treating Nawaz while the government’s board would do a check-up to determine his fitness for travel.
Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq A Khan kept on insisting that Nawaz Sharif could submit the bonds to the court and not the government, if he wants. The bond is not currency, they are just papers of ownership, he added.
Earlier, the bench asked PML-N President Shahbaz, who was in the court for hearing, if he was willing to guarantee that Nawaz will return? To this, Shahbaz said: “God will bring him back.”
PML-N lawyer Amjad Pervaiz told the court that Nawaz had returned to Pakistan [last year after conviction in Avenfield reference] for the proceedings in the corruption references, filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). He insisted that the former premier “respects the law”.
Pervaiz said the IHC had suspended Nawaz’s sentence and argued: “The government cannot interfere while the matter is in the court.”
The court asked Nawaz’s lawyer if the former premier was willing to submit anything as surety. The bench allowed PML-N’s legal team to discuss the matter with Nawaz and adjourned the proceedings for 15 minutes, after which the lawyers held consultations with Shahbaz in the courtroom.
In the first half of the hearing, the bench had asked AAG Khan if the memorandum by the interior ministry was “issued on humanitarian basis”.
Khan said that the federal government knew that Nawaz condition was “precarious”, adding that the PML-N supremo was granted permission by the court to travel abroad for medical treatment. He argued that the condition of furnishing an indemnity bond was added in order to “satisfy the court”.
“We imposed conditions to uphold the writ of the court,” Khan insisted and said “if the former prime minister wants to go abroad for treatment, he can go for a specified period of time.
“The court granted a bail of eight weeks to Nawaz Sharif,” he said and added: “If Nawaz Sharif wants to go abroad for treatment, he can go, but first he has to satisfy the court.
“If the court is satisfied, we (the government) have no objection.
“If Nawaz Sharif does not want to submit the bonds to the government, then he can submit them to the court,” the AAG said.
“We will ask Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif to submit a written undertaking. The federal government can review it,” the bench said. “This undertaking will be submitted in the court; if the undertaking is not upheld, then the law of contempt of court is available.
“The government is also asking for a [written] undertaking,” Khan insisted. “So that legal action can be taken if Nawaz Sharif does not return.”
Nawaz, who was diagnosed with an immune system disorder, has been advised to go abroad for medical treatment. The former premier is convicted in two corruption cases and is a suspect in another.
Our correspondent adds: Opposition leader in National Assembly and President Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Shahbaz Sharif thanked judiciary for giving Nawaz Sharif permission to travel abroad for medical treatment without any ‘unjustified condition’.
“I am thankful to the Lahore High Court for allowing Nawaz Sharif for medical treatment abroad by removing his name from the Exit Control List (ECL). The permission granted is without any unjustified condition of signing indemnity bonds,” Shahbaz said while speaking to the media after the court order.
With the court decision, he added, the last hurdle created by the government for treatment abroad had been removed. The court allowed Nawaz Sharif purely on humanitarian grounds by setting the condition of indemnity bond aside, he added.
“I am also very grateful to the legal team and the entire nation for this effort and praying for the good health of Nawaz Sharif,” he added.
Emotional PML-N president said prayers of his mother were also yielded results as severely ailing Nawaz would now be able to go abroad without any delay.
Agencies add: Addressing a press conference along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan said in the federal capital that NAB law clearly stated that sentence of a convict could not be suspended or bailed. However, he added, the government respected the court order and says Nawaz Sharif might go abroad after showing a certified copy of the court order. He said he would be able to give an advice to the government after release of written and detailed order of the court.
He said Nawaz Sharif had been violating undertakings which he made in the past and added that the government had asked him to submit indemnity bond for flying abroad. The attorney general said: “The court has not rejected the government position on indemnity bond.”
Speaking on the occasion, Firdous Ashiq Awan said the government viewed the Lahore High Court decision with respect and would give a response once the court issued its detailed verdict on the matter.
“The government’s stance was that the fine imposed on Nawaz had been done so by the court and not the government itself,” said Firdous. “The government had kept the condition of the indemnity bond owing to the fine.” She said Nawaz Sharif had been asked to sign indemnity bond keeping in view his past record.
Firdous said the government narrative was not based on ill intentions. She said the LHC decision could not be taken as a victory for one side or defeat of another. “This is not a victory or defeat for anyone – it’s a question of rule of law and Constitution,” she said.
She said the government legal team was analysing the matter and final decision on challenging the court ruling would be taken after receiving detailed verdict of the court. She said it was the government which had constituted a medical board to examine Nawaz Sharif’s health.
Desk news adds: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will be shifted to a Boston hospital after he seeks initial treatment in the United Kingdom (UK), sources told Geo News on Saturday.
Sources said Nawaz would most likely fly out of the country on Monday evening. The air ambulance in which Nawaz would travel would stop for a brief time on the journey abroad as it could not undertake a long journey in a single stroke.
Sources said Nawaz would seek treatment for his kidney and heart in the UK. In the US, the former prime minister will be treated for his platelet condition.
Nawaz will be treated in another city in the UK apart from London. Appointments have been made with doctors in the UK and the US, according to sources.
Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said it would take doctors at least 48 hours to prepare Nawaz Sharif medically and physically for a long journey.