Deadlock persists over Nawaz’s departure as govt demands Rs7bn indemnity bond


–Law minister says govt has decided to allow ‘one-time’ permission to former PM to go abroad for four weeks

–PML-N says making Nawaz’s departure conditional is ‘unconstitutional’, Shehbaz calls meeting on Thursday

ISLAMABAD: 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 decision to send the PML-N supreme leader abroad, he said the permission was not conditional to anyone’s consent and has been granted to fulfill the government’s obligations in view of Nawaz’s “adverse critical medical condition”.

He said the Interior Ministry had received an application from PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, who had also affixed a detailed medical report from Sharif Medical City hospital and added the report was cross-checked with the Punjab medical board also endorsing the report of the Sharif Medical City on Nov 10.

Speaking about the health of the PML-N supreme leader, he said Nawaz has a blood disorder and that his platelet count was around 25,000 when it should have been around 150,000 or above.

He had also suffered a stroke.

“On November 12, we held three meetings and the subcommittee informed the cabinet that Nawaz Sharif’s medical condition is very serious,” he said, noting that besides the blood platelets issue, Nawaz suffers from numerous cardiac issues and has undergone six heart procedures.

“When they attempt to treat Nawaz’s platelet count issues, other complications including those related to his heart arise,” he said quoting the medical team that has been treating Nawaz.

Speaking about the difference of opinion within the cabinet over the decision to permit Nawaz to travel abroad, he said the cabinet members weren’t aware of the gravity of the former PM’s health and once informed they would endorse his travel with a”thumping majority”.

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.

The decision to submit the indemnity bonds was contested by the PML-N, with Shehbaz Sharif calling a meeting of the party leaders on Thursday to discuss the strategy in this regard.

According to PML-N leader Atta Tarar, Nawaz had already submitted surety bonds in two separate courts and there was no need to submit more sureties to the government.

In a statement after the law minister’s presser, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the government’s reluctance in removing Nawaz’s name from the ECL was causing a delay in the arrival of an air ambulance to transport the former premier abroad. She said that as per the doctor’s directives, the air ambulance was supposed to arrive on Wednesday.

“Making Nawaz’s departure abroad conditional is unconstitutional,” she said, adding that the government was playing a “dangerous political game” with Nawaz’s health.

An emergency meeting of doctors is underway regarding his health, she said, sharing that the former premier had been administered high doses of steroids twice already and repeated doses of steroids could be dangerous, given Nawaz’s health.

She said that all the legal requirements regarding his health had already been completed and the government should not act as a hindrance to his immediate treatment.

The meeting was supposed to take place at 10am, but it was postponed due to “miscommunication”. The PML-N representatives were also not invited to the meeting, said Marriyum Aurangzeb, refuting reports of a boycott.

Speaking to the media in the morning, Tarar said that PML-N representatives had not been asked to appear before the sub-committee meeting. However, the head of the committee had told them that if they change their stance on the surety bonds, they should inform the committee.

The meeting came a day after the federal cabinet approved to allow the former PM to go abroad, however, on certain conditions.

However, Nawaz had refused to go to the United Kingdom for medical treatment after the government asked him to submit surety bonds in return for the removal of his name from the no-fly list.

Last month, Nawaz, who is suffering from a bleeding disorder, was granted bail by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on medical grounds, while the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended his seven-year jail-term for treatment. 

His doctor had maintained that Nawaz needs to be flown abroad for treatment as his condition remains precarious. The Sharif family has requested the Interior Ministry to remove the former premier’s name from the ECL so that he could be flown to London.