Shehbaz Sharif to leave for London: Govt withdraws petition challenging LHC order

The federal government on Tuesday withdrew its petition against the Lahore High Court's (LHC) decision allowing PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif to leave abroad.

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The federal government on Tuesday withdrew its petition against the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision allowing PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif to leave abroad.

The LHC had granted “one-time” permission to former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif to go abroad on medical grounds, after which the government moved the Supreme Court to have the decision declared null and void.

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, presided over the hearing.

When the hearing resumed, the LHC’s registrar presented the record of the case before the bench, informing the court that the case was heard in one day after the reservations pertaining to Sharif leaving the country were dismissed.

“Was Shehbaz Sharif’s case heard as per the usual system or through a special process?” asked Justice Ahsan.

The registrar answered that the high court decided to hear the government’s reservations and Sharif’s petition the same day.

“On Friday, 9:30am, the reservations were raised and proceedings into the case began at 11:00am the same day,” explained the registrar.

Justice Ahsan remarked that the government’s attorney was provided only 30 mins to seek instructions. “How many hearings were held, in the past one year, on Fridays at 12:00pm?” asked the judge.

The judge remarked that the LHC had not even inquired as to which list Sharif’s name had been included to.

“In how many other cases was one-sided relief provided?” he asked.

Later, the government decided to withdraw its appeal against the LHC’s decision after Sharif’s lawyer assured the apex court he would not pursue contempt of court proceedings against institutions for not letting him go abroad.

“The manner in which Shehbaz Sharif was provided relief in this case can not become a precedent.” opined the court.

“How can the movement of a suspect in an ongoing criminal case be restricted?” asked Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. He added that the government’s position had been heard by the LHC.

The attorney general informed the court that the government had not made any accusations in its appeal against the LHC’s verdict. He expressed concern that the LHC’s decision would set a precedence for future cases as well.

Read More: Inside story: ‘Shehbaz Sharif is establishment’s next blue-eyed man’

After the LHC verdict was announced last month, the PML-N president went to the airport to travel abroad but was not allowed to board the plane by immigration authorities.

What is NRO?

On October 5, 2007, the-then Pakistani President and Army Chief, General Pervez Musharraf, had enforced the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which had granted amnesty to politicians, political workers, and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, money laundering, murders, and terrorism etc between January 1, 1986, and October 12, 1999 — the time between two Martial Law stints in Pakistan.

The NRO came into existence just 40 days before the stipulated five-year tenure of the PML-Q was supposed to end.

The NRO was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on December 16, 2009, but not before it had benefited 8,041 allegedly tainted people, including 34 politicians and three ambassadors.

How Nawaz went to London?

It is important to note that the federal cabinet granted in-principle “conditional” approval to remove Nawaz’s name from the ECL. The government had asked the Sharif family to pay Rs.7 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.

The PML-N leadership rejected the offer. While addressing a press conference after a consultation meeting of senior party leaders in Lahore, Shehbaz Sharif said that the incumbent government of PTI wanted to take ransom from the Sharif family in the name of an indemnity bond.

The Lahore High Court on Saturday (usually an off day) allowed former premier Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment, saying the duration could be extended based on medical reports.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, started hearing the petition at 11 am and after multiple breaks and back and forth, delivered the verdict close to 6 pm.

In the court-approved undertaking, Nawaz assured that he would return “within four weeks” ─ a time frame that was missing in the initial handwritten undertaking. The question can PM Imran Khan give NRO seems to have lost its worth as the available circumstantial evidence suggest that a deal might have been signed between Sharifs and the power that be.