Confusion about Mr Sharif’s departure

  • Former PM needs urgent treatment abroad


Last month, acknowledging the medical condition of the former PM Nawaz Sharif, PM Imran Khan said his sincere prayers were with the ailing politician. Later statements by Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid and Special Assistant to PM Naeemul Haque also indicated that the PM had decided to allow Mr Sharif to proceed abroad for medical treatment.

Statements appearing on Monday by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Special Assistant to PM on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan and Punjab Health Minister Yasmeen Rashid however indicated that there was going to be no early end to Mr Sharif’s tribulations. It was maintained that “legal obstacles” to his departure had to be removed first. Further that the medical board’s report being insufficient, it would be directed to prepare a detailed report. The new report would be sent to the NAB whose comments would go to a review committee in the law ministry, then to interior ministry and finally to the cabinet committee for taking a decision. This strengthened the perception that all types of hindrances were being created to stop Mr Sharif’s departure or delay it till he was no longer able to travel abroad.

Coming later in the day Governor Punjab’s announcement however contradicted that perception. Chaudhry Sarwar claimed that he had persuaded different government ministries to act speedily to allow the former Prime Minister to fly out of the country at the earliest. Further that his name would be removed from the ECL the same day

This is yet another example of one hand in the PTI government not knowing what the other is doing. One can only hope that a contradiction does not follow the Punjab Governor’s statement.

Delay in sending Mr Sharif abroad for treatment can have serious implications for the patient. Precedents exist where people put on ECL by NAB were allowed to proceed abroad on the directives of the Interior Ministry within no time. Delaying tactics are likely to be interpreted as lack of concern for humanitarian issues on the part of the PTI administration or worse still, as evidence of political vindictiveness. What needs to be realised is that anything untoward happening to the PML-N leader as a consequence of delay would have grave political implications.