A clever move

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  • A look at how Nawaz was allowed to go abroad

Days after the Lahore High Court and the Islamabad High Court granted bail to Nawaz Sharif, the government found itself cornered to decide Nawaz’s fate concerning his removal from the Exit Control List. Though according to the applicable law, it is the government’s prerogative to include or exclude the name of any individual from the ECL, Nawaz’s case was in the limelight and several factors were to be considered before an official decision could be made. It wasn’t an easy decision.

The government was in a fix as the decision would potentially have had a number of implications which could be problematic for the government in the future. If they decided not to remove his name and his health deteriorated, the government would have to face the backlash. Similarly, if they allowed him to fly abroad and he refused to return thereafter, the government would be the one facing the brunt of both the public as well as the courts from where Nawaz could have absconded. The political repercussions of their decision were also to be considered as the Maulana was on the war path simultaneously.

Nonetheless, the government came up with a brilliant idea to allow Nawaz to travel subject to a stringent condition which the entire country knows would never have been complied with. Caving in to the demand of the government would amount to political suicide by the PML(N). Talks of a possible deal would have also gained traction. By imposing the condition, the government effectively shifted the onus from itself. As expected, the matter was taken to court to be reviewed judicially.

Relief on humanitarian grounds provided to Nawaz should be readily extended to the common man. Incarcerated prisoners are made to suffer despite being diagnosed with serious medical conditions. Their petitions are not even fixed for hearing, let alone being decided in their favour. Let us hope that similar treatment is extended to the citizenry and it is not a condition to have Sharif as your surname, in order to obtain relief

Once again, the name Sharif gained preferential treatment and a divisional bench of the LHC sat on Friday as well as Saturday. As a general rule, the divisional benches do not sit on Fridays and the entire Lahore High Court does not function on Saturdays. Irrespective of the ordinary provision of justice to the common man, the learned judges convened till Saturday evening and took up Nawaz Sharif’s matter. A day earlier, the maintainability of the petition was deliberated upon and subsequently the petition was maintained and adjourned for the next day. The name Sharif indeed carries some weight, in spite of whatever anybody might claim. Such treatment at the hands of the judiciary raises several eyebrows.

Senior members of the bar, whilst commenting off the record, severely criticized the mode and manner in which the proceedings commenced. Not because relief was provided to Nawaz Sharif but solely because similar relief would never be provided to a common man, no matter how serious the circumstances might be. The judiciary in the recent months has provided extraordinary relief to the Sharif family, which remains unheard of as far as the common citizens of the country are concerned. Ironically, it is the very same judiciary which the Sharif family itself criticized for being biased and having been purportedly influenced by outside forces. The independence and integrity of the very same judiciary has been admonished by the Sharif family and their supporters since the unveiling of the Panama saga.

Nevertheless, the PTI government made a clever move and tactfully avoided taking responsibility for any future eventuality that may or may not arise. Following the court order on Saturday, even if Nawaz Sharif absconds, the government is not to blame. They would simply contend that the condition imposed by them could have made it difficult for Nawaz to abscond but it was the court’s decision following which he was allowed to leave hence, zero liability for the government. It is unexpected from the incumbent government to think of such a move, which is the reason why some reports claim it was the NAB’s idea to impose the indemnity condition.

Though several commentators opined that the government’s condition was inhumane and should not have been imposed, I beg to differ. The condition was never meant to restrain Nawaz from leaving. All it hoped to achieve was a shifting of the burden from the government’s shoulders, which they successfully were able to do. Be it NAB’s idea or the government’s itself, the indemnity condition was surely a clever move. The government blew hot and cold in the same breath and interestingly got away with it. On one hand they allowed Nawaz to fly abroad, whereas at the same time imposing a condition they knew would never be complied.

The tarnished reputation of the government was saved from yet another embarrassment in the light of the court order allowing Nawaz to travel abroad. The turbulent tenure would have suffered a major setback if Nawaz in the future refused to return to Pakistan. It is now the courts which granted bail, suspended the sentence and allowed Nawaz to travel abroad. As far as the government was concerned, it would have wanted to keep Nawaz within reach. No blame can now be attributed to the government in case of Nawaz’s failure to return.

At a time when the political landscape remains bumpy for the government, the Imran Khan led team outmanoeuvred a bombshell lobbed at them. Effectively, the government has indemnified itself by letting the court decide the fate of Nawaz. The very courts responsible for Nawaz’s incarceration in the first place. I wonder what the views of PML(N) would be about the judiciary at the moment. Whilst invoking extraordinary constitutional jurisdiction, the court has granted extraordinary relief to Nawaz, the sort which should change the perception of the N-Leaguers about the judiciary.

Conclusively, it may be said that relief on humanitarian grounds provided to Nawaz should be readily extended to the common man. Incarcerated prisoners are made to suffer despite being diagnosed with serious medical conditions. Their petitions are not even fixed for hearing, let alone being decided in their favour. Let us hope that similar treatment is extended to the citizenry and it is not a condition to have Sharif as your surname, in order to obtain relief.