Will Maryam have greater political impact from London or Lahore?

Maryam Nawaz’s request for name removal from ECL has been declined by the federal government. Now, will the LHC order the government to remove her name on humanitarian grounds? More importantly, will Maryam have more impact while staying in London or Lahore?

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The federal government has apparently decided not to allow Maryam Nawaz to leave the country and join her father, Nawaz Sharif, in London. Political commentators and experts in Islamabad are now mulling over a few important questions; will the court approve Maryam Nawaz’s request to leave for London if the federal government declines her request? Will the PTI-led government take up the matter before the Supreme Court if the LHC decides to let Maryam go? Will Maryam have more political impact from London or Lahore?

Maryam approaches LHC

Since the supreme court of Pakistan has clarified back in 2015 that it is up to the federal government to decide whom to place or remove on the ECL. The courts, therefore, do not get involved in it.

Notably, the LHC has declared the PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz’s petition seeking the removal of her name from the ECL as inadmissible and directed her to approach the interior ministry in this regard. Maryam wanted to seek some relief on “compassionate and humanitarian grounds”. The court has suggested the legal counsel for Maryam to approach the relevant forum.

The legal counsel for Maryam Nawaz told the court about the complexity of the matter. The government would never give the decision in Maryam’s favor as it doesn’t want her to travel outside the country, he went on to say. Justice Ali Baqir remarked, “You should first contact the interior ministry and wait for its decision, then approach the judiciary.”

Noting that her father was shifted abroad on account of his critical health condition, the petition said Maryam was “also entitled to relief on compassionate and humanitarian grounds”. It said after her mother’s demise, it was Maryam who had been looking after her ailing father “who is much dependent upon her”.

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Maryam had requested the LHC to declare the memorandum through which her name was placed on the ECL last year as “illegal, without lawful authority, void ab-initio and of no legal effect”, and direct the government to delete her name from the ECL.

Federal government declines Maryam’s request

It has made it clear that the government is not ready to remove Maryam Nawaz’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) and won’t allow her to go abroad. Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda said that the federal government shall not allow Maryam to leave the country. The minister was among others who did not agree to allow the former premier to leave for London. Nawaz Sharif, convicted in a corruption case, left the country under health pretexts.

The federal minister said that during a federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday he had addressed the prime minister and told him that the government won’t tolerate the ‘platelet drama’ for a second time. “Every time the PML-N leader runs away and the workers get caught. This time if the name is removed from the ECL then we will challenge it in the courts,” he said.

Maryam was arrested in August 2018 after a corruption reference was filed against her at the National Accountability Bureau related to the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

Nawaz’s name removed from ECL

It is important to note that the federal cabinet recently 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 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 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.

Read more: LHC dismisses Maryam’s petition for removal of name from ECL on “humanitarian grounds”

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 federal government did not take up the matter before the SC which garnered criticism from several quarters with the PTI. Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, made it clear that he was, in principle, not in favor of allowing Nawaz to leave the country since “it has set a bad precedent”.

Minus Maryam Formula is on cards?

There is a strong view that the establishment does not want Maryam to lead the party. Therefore, she may be allowed to leave for London and remain there for some years. Interestingly, PTI’s central leader Jahangir Tareen has recently predicted that the time to minus PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz has arrived.

The question of Maryam’s political impact

For past several months, the PML-N’s vice-President is silent. She has not tweeted against the establishment or her political rivals, PTI, due to some unknown reasons. Political analysts are now discussing about Maryam’s future and wondering if she will have more impact while being with her father in London where she is likely to get the attention of international media. The pertinent question is that will she be allowed to go outside and get a chance to interact with the international media to banish the government and security establishment of Pakistan to shape a narrative on humanitarian grounds.

There is another view that while staying in Lahore will help Maryam create a more powerful narrative. She will be able to establish that she has not been allowed to stay with her ailing father which is completely inhumane, point out analysts.

Read more: Maryam Nawaz’s Silence – A Calculated Approach?

G-M Pitafi, professor of Politics and International Relations at UMT, Lahore, opines that “if Maryam is not allowed the entire media, civil society and public intellectuals shall put pressure on the government to leave her for London on humanitarian grounds”.

However, it is yet to be seen whether the LHC allows Maryam to leave the country or not. Similarly, it is also important to see what the federal government does after court’s order to remove her name from the ECL.

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