Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has decided to approach the court for getting former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s name off the Exit Control List (ECL). The announcement was pronounced by senior party leader, Malik Ahmed Khan, in a talk-show. Political analysts believe that the deadlock on the matter persists since both persists, PML-N and PTI-led government, do not want to lose the support of the masses at any cost.
In Channel 92’s program ‘Ho Kya Raha Hai?’ he was asked by senior journalist Arif Nizami why the party was delaying the matter when Nawaz was seriously ill. Khan responded that the party will approach the court but would not sign an illegal document because it amounts to “extortion”. The government should not involve itself in this matter and focus on governance instead, he added.
It is important to note that the federal cabinet on Tuesday granted in-principle “conditional” approval to remove Nawaz’s name from the ECL. The government has asked the Sharif Family to pay Rs7 billion as surety bonds — equivalent to the fines imposed on him by an accountability court in two corruption cases Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Avenfield properties — in which he was convicted.
Shehbaz Summons a Meeting
Sources confirmed to GVS that the PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has called a meeting of the senior party leaders to study the matter. The PML-N’s president was initially praised for being able to seek a ‘deal’ for Nawaz which would help him to leave the country on medical grounds. But things took a turn when the government asked Nawaz to submit a Rs7bn indemnity bond. Users on social media questioned the decision and expressed their desire to know if there was any deal between the government and the Sharif family. Analysts believe that public pressure demanded the PTI-led government to ensure that Nawaz does not go abroad without signing any legal document.
Interior Ministry Issues a Memorandum
It states that the former prime minister will be allowed to travel to London if he submits an indemnity bond as following: 8million UK Pounds or equivalent rupees; 25 million US Dollars or equivalent rupees; and Rs 1.5bn. The memo read that it could either be submitted by Nawaz or Shehbaz.
Nawaz Rejects the Offer
Nawaz Sharif has ‘rejected’ the conditional offer and decided not to leave Pakistan. A PML-N insider told the media that they had informed the government that Mr Sharif would not submit any indemnity bonds to the government for his departure to London for his treatment”. He further said that the government’s ‘conditions’ were brought to the knowledge of Nawaz Sharif by his younger brother Shahbaz at the former’s Jati Umra residence in the presence of Maryam Nawaz. “Nawaz Sharif said these demands/conditions are illegal and can’t be met in the presence of court guarantees already submitted to it (court) with regard to his bail,” he said.
PML-N leader Atta Tarar believes that because Nawaz has already submitted surety bonds in two separate courts, there was no need to submit more sureties to the government.
Some experts, GVS spoke to in Lahore and Islamabad, believe that what the government is asking for is ‘illegal’ and ‘unprecedented’. “The government has two legal options in this case; a) allow Nawaz to leave the country or b) declined Nawaz’s request,” a lawyer told GVS. It is argued that the government cannot impose fine or demand any surety bond from the persons concerned in this regard.
On the other hand, there is a strong legal opinion that since Nawaz is a convicted criminal, the government has to set some principles before it allows him to leave for London. There is also an argument that Nawaz Sharif should approach the Islamabad or Lahore High court in this regard.
Now it is to be seen whether the court orders to take off his name from the ECL with or without any condition. In either case, the PTI’s government will have a better political ground to stand on
There are also political commentators who believe that the PML-N must not wait and should immediately submit the surety bond and let Nawaz leave Pakistan if his condition is as critical as it is being portrayed.
Who will Take the Responsibility?
The government does not want to take the responsibility of allowing Nawaz to leave for London. Therefore, it has demanded an indemnity bond so that it could justify its decisions later on. Analysts believe that it is the political requirement for PTI to ask for the indemnity bond in order to assure voters that ‘no deal has been signed’. PTI’s key plank of political mobilization before the General Election 2018 was its narrative against the corrupt leaders who have looted the national wealth. “I can give my life but will never give any NRO to those who have looted Pakistan,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said after assuming the office.
On the other hand, it will be a challenge for the court to solely take the responsibility of Nawaz’s departure for London. Now it is to be seen whether the court orders to take off his name from the ECL with or without any condition. In either case, the PTI’s government will have a better political ground to stand on.
Nawaz’s doctor maintains that his condition is precarious and he needs to be flown out to get his treatment done. PML-N has requested the Interior Ministry to take his name off the ECL.