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November 18, 2019

‘LHC conditions tougher than govt’s’

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November 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government team said on Sunday that the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict regarding removal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from the Exit Control List (ECL) came with even tougher conditions than the government conditions as the court has taken an undertaking from Sharifs instead of indemnity bonds and now they are bound to the court.

The government team further said that Nawaz Sharif will have to tell conditions under which he is travelling to any country. It said a convict cannot be removed from the ECL under the law.

Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan said at a news conference along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan here that the matter involving Nawaz Sharif's removal from the ECL as per the LHC orders will be put before the federal cabinet after receiving detailed judgment. He said the federal cabinet would decide on whether it should file an appeal against the LHC judgment. He maintained that the LHC decision of allowing Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment was purely based on humanitarian grounds and merits of the case were yet to be decided as no legal reason was given in the order.

The attorney general said it was an interim order of the court, which did not reject the government’s stance as the case would be resumed for final decision to look into merits of the case in January next year. He also emphasised that the cabinet never opposed Nawaz Sharif's travel abroad, however, a legal requirement was necessary to be fulfilled and that the undertaking before the court of law had more value than indemnity bonds the government was asking for.

The attorney general contended that if the signatories i.e. Nawaz Sharif and opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif did not fulfil their commitment to the courts, then they could be tried under the Contempt of Court Ordinance and Article 61, 62-B of the Constitution.

Separately Firdous Ashiq Awan, while speaking to Geo News, said the government respected the decision of the court and would give a response once the court issues its detailed verdict on the matter.

“The government's stance was that the fine imposed on Nawaz Sharif had been done so by the court and not the government itself,” Dr Firdous said. “The government had kept the condition of the indemnity bond owing to the fine,” she added.

She said that the government's narrative was not based on ill intentions. “The decision of the LHC could not be taken as a victory for one side or defeat of another,” she said. “This is not a victory or defeat for anyone - it is a question of rule of law and Constitution,” she added.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar believed that the LHC order on removal of Nawaz Sharif's name from the ECL was an endorsement of the government's stance.

Addressing a press conference along with the attorney general, he said according to law the name of a convict could not be removed from the ECL. However, he said permission was granted to Nawaz Sharif on humanitarian grounds to let him proceed abroad due to his health condition.

Shahzad Akbar explained the federal cabinet had decided to grant one-time permission to Nawaz Sharif specifically for medical treatment and that this permission was duration bound i.e. for four weeks.

The LHC decision, he noted, to unconditionally allow Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment was in fact a reinforcement of the spirit of the cabinet decision on this count. He added that the court had suspended the indemnity bond condition and replaced it with an undertaking from the former prime minister and his brother Shahbaz Sharif.

He pointed out that the government would have had to approach the civil courts for reinforcement of the indemnity bonds in case Nawaz Sharif refrained from returning to Pakistan, but now the court had itself taken undertaking from the Sharif brothers keeping in view the spirit of the cabinet decision. He said it was also decided that upon completion of his treatment, Nawaz Sharif would return to the country and face the cases against him and that his return would also be ensured.

The special assistant said Sharif family had a precedent of not returning to the country when granted permissions to go abroad and the amount of surety bond for Nawaz Sharif was determined on the basis of sentences awarded to him in various cases.

Shahzad Akbar said violation of undertaking given by Shahbaz Sharif to the LHC would be a serious criminal offence. He said the verdict of the court would be discussed in the cabinet meeting today (Tuesday).

The special assistant pointed out that there were four basic points of the judicial decision. The first point was only a one-time permission should be granted, the second was that Nawaz Sharif would travel abroad for treatment, the third was that he would return to face the cases against him and the fourth was to guarantee his return to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the government's legal team to review the LHC decision and present a report in the next cabinet meeting.

Geo News reported quoting sources that the legal team would present the report in the upcoming session of the cabinet meeting. The prime minister and his cabinet members will prepare a strategy on how to deal with the situation during the meeting as well, as per sources.