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Nawaz Sharif Free to Leave Pakistan

by Newsweek Pakistan

Tolga Akmen—AFP

High court ruling grants former prime minister four weeks to seek medical treatment abroad, with option to seek extensions if required

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday permitted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to leave Pakistan for four weeks and seek medical treatment abroad, without imposing any other conditions. It also said that, if required, Sharif could apply for an extension to this span.

The decision followed Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shahbaz Sharif submitting a handwritten undertaking assuring the court that Nawaz would return to Pakistan following medical treatment abroad. “I, Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, do hereby undertake to facilitate return of my brother, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, on certification by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return to Pakistan,” the draft notice stated. Additionally, it said that Nawaz is fully willing to face all pending cases against him and would do so upon his return to Pakistan.

The undertaking was submitted after the LHC had asked the PMLN leader to submit some form of written affidavit guaranteeing that Nawaz would return to Pakistan after receiving treatment. The government also submitted its own draft for an agreement, saying the PMLN’s draft was unacceptable without a firm date for Nawaz’s return, and demanding compensation in case the former premier did not return to Pakistan. The Sharif family’s lawyer immediately rejected this, saying an exact date could only be provided after doctors had ascertained how much treatment Nawaz Sharif requires.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, however, said the PMLN’s draft seemed fair but directed the word “facilitate” to be changed to “guarantee” in the original text of the undertaking. It also asked the PMLN draft to be amended to include a clause under which medical reports of Nawaz Sharif would be shared with the government. The bench then adjourned to formulate an agreement based on the two drafts and finally provided the agreement that directs the government to remove Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL).

The LHC started hearing a petition to remove Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL to seek medical treatment abroad on Friday. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government had earlier agreed to grant a “one-time permission” to Nawaz to leave the country for four weeks—if he agreed to pay indemnity bond of approximately Rs. 7.5 billion. The Sharif family rejected this condition, declaring it ‘ransom,’ and said it was illegal of the government to ask for a bond after it had already been submitted to court as bail to secure Nawaz’s release from prison.

Defending the government’s moves, the additional attorney general told the LHC that the state was merely trying to uphold the writ of the court.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been in critical condition for nearly a month, with medical professionals saying his platelet levels keep dropping to 24,000 against a healthy count of 150,000-450,000. Owing to his ill health, the LHC granted him bail on medical grounds in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. The Islamabad High Court also granted bail the former premier bail for eight weeks on medical grounds, suspending his seven-year sentence in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference.

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