Nawaz rejects conditional permission to travel abroad


–PML-N says there’s no need to submit surety bonds after govt seeks guarantee that former PM will return to Pakistan

–Cabinet subcommittee asks PML-N and NAB to submit final responses till Wednesday


ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday reportedly refused to go to the United Kingdom for medical treatment after the government asked the ailing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo to submit surety bonds in return for removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

According to sources, the former premier took the decision after a one-and-a-half hour meeting with his brother Shehbaz Sharif at Jati Umra.

The decision was also conveyed to the cabinet’s subcommittee late on Tuesday night by the PML-N representatives.

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.

The subcommittee reserved its decision on the matter till Wednesday, giving the PML-N and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) time to submit their final responses on the matter.

Earlier in the day, a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the removal of Nawaz’s name from the no-fly list if he agrees to sign surety bonds that he would return after treatment from abroad.

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 said that Nawaz needs to be flown abroad for treatment as his condition remains precarious. The Sharif family has requested the Interior Ministry to remove Nawaz’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL), so that he could be flown to the United Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the federal cabinet conditionally approved the removal of Nawaz’s name from the ECL after Law Minister Farogh Naseem apprised the participants on a meeting of the cabinet’s subcommittee which he presided over earlier in the day.

Addressing a news conference after the cabinet meeting, PM’s Special Assistant on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that about “85-90 per cent” participants of the meeting were of the opinion that Nawaz should be allowed to go abroad for medical treatment provided he meets certain conditions, including submitting indemnity bonds.

She said that Law Minister Naseem shared the recommendations given by the 14-member medical board examining Nawaz, the opinion of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and his own view with the cabinet regarding allowing the former prime minister to proceed abroad.

The prime minister then conducted a vote, in which a “majority” of the cabinet members favoured removing Nawaz’s name from the ECL, revealed Awan.

However, she said, there was a consensus of all members on the following: Nawaz Sharif should not be given “unconditional relief”; he should be legally bound to surety bonds, indemnity bonds, security and fines imposed on him by courts; the permission to go abroad should be a “one-time waiver”; and the relief should be “time-bound”.

Separately, the prime minister’s spokesperson Nadeem Afzal Chan said that several members of the cabinet had opposed striking the PML-N supremo’s name off the ECL, adding that the prime minister gave his opinion after hearing the viewpoints of all members.

“The prime minister was of the opinion that Nawaz Sharif should go abroad for treatment,” the spokesperson said.

He stressed that it is not the government, but the NAB and courts, which “have to be given guarantees” regarding Nawaz’s time abroad.

Earlier in the day, the cabinet subcommittee meeting on the same issue concluded inconclusively after NAB officials opposed the removal of Nawaz’s name from the no-fly list.

Special Assistant to the PM Imran on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Nawaz Sharif’s personal doctor Adnan and Shehbaz Sharif’s representative Atta Tarar also attended the meeting.

The health secretary and head of the medical board treating Nawaz briefed the subcommittee over the former premier’s health condition. The subcommittee also summoned NAB officials to the meeting.

The Punjab government maintained in the meeting that the health of the former premier was worrying and he needed immediate treatment.

The subcommittee asked Nawaz’s lawyers to give a date for the return of their client to Pakistan after his treatment abroad.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, the law minister said that the issue of removing Nawaz’s name from the ECL was a bit complicated as neither NAB officials nor Nawaz’s lawyers had submitted the documents they were asked to bring to the meeting.

A day earlier, NAB had said the federal government was the “competent authority” to decide the matter of removal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL), as the PML-N claimed that the delay in this regard was “posing a threat” to the life of its supreme leader.

Nawaz, 69, agreed on Friday to go to England for his treatment, heeding doctors’ advice and ‘accepting’ his family’s request. He was scheduled to leave for London on a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight on Monday morning. However, his departure to the British capital was conditioned with his name’s removal from the no-fly list.