Mian's itinerary hangs in balance

PML-N rejects condition of indemnity bond, threatens government of dire consequences

From Abid Usman
LAHORE: PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday rejected the government’s conditional decision to allow Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment, accusing the government of playing “dirty politics” on the former prime minister’s health.
Addressing a press conference alongside the PML-N’s top leadership, he announced that the party’s legal team has approached the Lahore High Court against the government decision.
It emerged while Shehbaz’s press conference was underway that a two-member bench of the LHC headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and including Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem would hear the PML-N president’s petition seeking removal of Nawaz’s name from the Exit Control List. The petition also asks that the court declare the condition for indemnity bonds as illegal.
After an initial hearing during which the federal government’s counsel raised an objection to the LHC hearing the petition, the high court issued notice to the government to submit a written reply to the petition. The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.
The government had on Tuesday announced that Nawaz will be given a “one-time” permission to travel abroad for his medical treatment for a period of four weeks. It said the permission would be subject to the Sharif family submitting an indemnity bond “to the tune of Rs7-7.5 billion”.
Shehbaz during the presser said the government by asking the PML-N to submit indemnity bonds to secure permission for Nawaz to travel abroad was, in fact, demanding “ransom” and the decision was not acceptable to the PML-N in any condition. He said the “political game” staged by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team regarding the PML-N supremo’s health is condemnable. The prime minister can “neither give nor take an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance-like deal]”, Shehbaz added. He asked the government whether Nawaz had submitted any indemnity or surety bonds when he had voluntarily returned to the country from London in July 2018 after he was sentenced to serve prison time by a trial court in the Avenfield reference.
“And today when two high courts have granted him bail and said that he can avail treatment in Pakistan or abroad, the government is doing politics on the issue. “Renowned lawyers of the country have criticised the [government] decision,” the PML-N president said. “There is no example of dirty politics in the country’s history over the health of anyone,” he added while accusing the government and other institutions of passing the buck to each other regarding deciding the matter.
“Nawaz Sharif’s health was turned into a shuttlecock,” he said, adding that doctors of the government-formed medical board had clearly stated that Nawaz should be moved abroad for treatment not available in Pakistan. “The nation will not be able to tolerate if a mishap occurs due to the delay [in Nawaz travelling abroad,” the PML-N president stressed. He said unlike Nawaz, former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari were not asked to submit indemnity bonds before their names were taken off the no-fly list.
He claimed that there was no legal basis for the government to demand indemnity bonds from the Sharif family because two of the cases against Nawaz, Avenfield and Al Azizia reference, in which fines were imposed on him have not attained finality while the third, Flashship Investments reference, was thrown out by the trial court. “Imran Khan I will hold you responsible if something happens to Nawaz Sharif due to this inordinate delay with a perverted mindset,” Shehbaz said, addressing the premier.
Nawaz’s personal physician Dr Adnan Khan while addressing the news conference said to this day it has not become clear why the PML-N supremo’s blood platelet count is so low.
A senior leader of the PML-N had earlier said: “The option of moving the court to seek directives for the government to remove the PML-N supreme leader’s name from the ECL is under serious consideration. It is highly expected that opposition leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif files a petition in a day or two.”
“The government’s offer is the worst example of the government’s vendetta against the Sharif family,” Nawaz’s son Hussain Nawaz said in a tweet while reacting to the government’s move.
Agencies add: A deadlock persists between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after the latter rejected the federal cabinet’s subcommittee’s decision to allow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for four weeks on account of medical treatment, granting him ‘one-time’ permission against an indemnity bond of Rs7 billion.
The government’s decision was announced by Law Minister Farogh Naseem in a press conference in the federal capital after a meeting of the cabinet’s subcommittee that was convened to discuss the removal of former PM Nawaz’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL).
“Shehbaz Sharif, who had appealed for the permission, will have to submit an indemnity bond to the tune of Rs7bn to avail the concession,” the law minister said after the meeting in allusion to the appeal by the younger Sharif.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry also issued a memorandum to this effect.
The letter states that the former prime minister will be allowed to travel abroad if he furnishes an indemnity bond as following: 8million UK Pounds or equivalent rupees; 25 million US Dollars or equivalent rupees; and Rs 1.5bn. The memo stated that the indemnity bond could either be submitted by Nawaz or his brother Shehbaz Sharif. Speaking about the refusal of the Sharif family to pay any guarantees, the law minister said that it was up to them how they take the matter forward.
The subcommittee meeting was also attended by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar. Naseem had earlier said once a decision is taken, media and the public would be briefed.
‘Party leadership
holding Nawaz captive’
By Shakeel Ahmed
ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting, FirdousAshiqAwan, on Thursday said that the PML-N leadership had held Nawaz Sharif captive. Firdous was speaking to media after a lengthy press conference by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. Shehbaz said that if anything unfortunate happened to his brother Nawaz then Prime Minister Imran would be held responsible for it. “Ransom is demanded by kidnappers, not facilitators,” said Firdous in an indirect reference to the PML-N leadership.
She said that by shifting Nawaz to JatiUmra, the PML-N leadership had held the former prime minister captive.
Firdous said that the government had provided every facility to Nawaz Sharif.
Earlier, Firdous had said in relation to removal of Nawaz’s name from the ECL that the ball now lay in the PML-N’s court.
Awan, the special assistant on information and broadcasting, was talking to media representatives outside the Islamabad High Court. “Politics can continue but Nawaz Sharif’s health is more important,” she told reporters.
On Wednesday, the PTI-led government had announced that it would allow the former premier to fly to the United Kingdom for medical treatment, provided that he submits indemnity bonds worth Rs7 billion and makes a commitment that he would return to Pakistan and face the corruption cases against him. Awan said that the laws of the Exit Control List do not allow for a convict to leave the country, “but as an out-of-the-box solution and on the basis of humanity, Prime Minister Imran Khan has agreed to give him [Sharif] a one-time waiver.”
Sharif, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, is currently at his residence in Lahore. Last month, he was rushed to a hospital after his health worsened. Sharif is suffering from multiple health complications and requires medical tests which are not available in Pakistan.
“Despite political differences, when the prime minister found out that a person’s life is in danger, he advised all spokespersons to not politick on Nawaz Sharif’s health,” Awan added.
Sharif’s brother Shehbaz is expected to hold an important press conference later today regarding the family’s decision.