–Two-member LHC bench rejects govt’s stance on maintainability of PML-N’s plea, court to hear case on Saturday
–Justice Najafi says Nawaz Sharif and Gen Musharraf’s cases are not similar as latter was not convicted by courts
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday admitted a plea filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) challenging the government’s condition of furnishing indemnity bonds in order to secure the ‘one-time’ permission for ailing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment.
The court had reserved its judgement on the admissibility of the petition in the afternoon.
After declaring the plea as maintainable, the LHC initially summoned lawyers from both sides to present arguments on the merits of the petition on Monday. However, upon request from PML-N’s lawyers, the court fixed the next hearing of the petition for 11:30am on Saturday.
Earlier, in its 45-page reply submitted in the LHC, the federal government had opposed the request seeking unconditional permission for Nawaz Sharif to go abroad, stating that the LHC does not have the jurisdiction to hear this petition. The government requested the court to reject the petition as non-maintainable.
The government also informed that it has allowed the former prime minister to travel abroad for four weeks and the ex-premier’s name was added to the ECL on the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) recommendation.
At the outset of the hearing, PML-N’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz presented copies of court orders in similar cases.
“There are many court verdicts that vindicate our stance,” he said, adding that example of the removal of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s name is in front of everyone.
On this, Justice Ali Baqir Najafi said Nawaz Sharif’s case has no link with Musharraf’s case as the latter was not convicted.
Advocate Amjad replied that supermodel Ayan Ali, who was jailed in connection with money laundering case, was also allowed to leave the country without any condition. The government cannot suppress anyone’s basic rights, he added.
Justice Najafi noted that according to the record, NAB has left the entire matter relating to removing Nawaz’s name from the ECL to the government.
Adding to this point, Advocate Pervez said NAB had in a letter stated that the authority to add or remove names from the ECL rested with the federal government. He said following this statement, the federal law minister had asked NAB to again clarify its stance on the matter.
Government counsel AAG Khan informed the court that the names of Nawaz and his children Maryam Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz were added to the ECL in the Avenfield case after the Supreme Court had ordered the filing of references against them.
He said Nawaz’s name was added to the no-fly list after fulfilling all legal requirements.
Using an example, the bench asked which court a person would approach if they were a resident of Karachi and their name was added to the ECL in Islamabad.
“Every case has different merits and record,” the government lawyer responded.
He said because Nawaz was sentenced by a NAB court in Islamabad and the appeal against it is being heard in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the request seeking removal of Nawaz’s name from the ECL could only be heard by the IHC.
AAG Khan argued that the government had not asked the Sharif family to submit surety bonds but indemnity bonds and that if Nawaz has reservations regarding submitting the same, he can approach the IHC.
The bench pointed out that the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case in which Nawaz is nominated is being heard in Lahore while PML-N counsel Pervez reminded the court that the Avenfield case had been filed by NAB Lahore.
AAG Khan said a court in Karachi had rejected a petition as non-maintainable that challenged a NAB case filed elsewhere.
At this, Justice Najafi reminded the government counsel that the petition currently being heard by the court concerns an ECL issue and a man who is “very ill”.
After hearing the arguments, the high court reserved its judgement on the maintainability of PML-N’s petition.
A day earlier, Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and Justice Sardar Naeem had taken up the plea filed by PML-N. The decision to approach the high court was announced by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif in a press conference, wherein he declared the government’s decision to demand surety bond a “ransom”.
“The government by asking the Sharif family to submit indemnity bonds to secure permission for Nawaz to travel abroad was, in fact, demanding ‘ransom’,” he had said.
On Wednesday, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, after much deliberation, had granted a one-time permission to Nawaz for four weeks to travel abroad for his treatment provided he submitted indemnity bonds worth over Rs7.5 billion.