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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government announced on Sunday to file an appeal against Lahore High Court (LHC)’s decision allowing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment, saying the former chief minister’s name still exists on ‘Provisional National Identification List (PNIL)’, which is separate from the ‘blacklist’.

Speaking at a news conference Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry and Prime Minister's Advisor on Interior and Accountability Shahzad Akbar said that the government will avail all legal options against the LHC’s decision.

Chaudhry pointed out that Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid was ‘much more ill’ than Shehbaz Sharif and despite that she was continuing her treatment while staying in Pakistan and was also steadfast on the Covid-19 front. “If Yasmin Rashid can get treatment in Pakistan, then why not Shehbaz Sharif?…Does it not suit Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif – who remained in the government for a long period – that they get their treatment done in Pakistan?” the minister asked.

He said that the government has no personal vendetta against the Sharif family and it was only fighting against the organised corruption committed in 20 years during the reign of PML-N and PPP.

“Allowing Shehbaz Sharif to go abroad and detaining smaller people on minor crimes will destroy the very fabric of our social system…We believe that the law should be equal for everyone and Shehbaz Sharif should also face cases in courts instead of seeking an opportunity, on one pretext or the other, to escape from the law,” he added.

He alleged that Shehbaz had previously visited London due to complaints of back pain and yet videos later surfaced of him running in the streets.

Furthermore, he questioned as to how the government could trust Shehbaz’s guarantee to return to the country when he had not been able to fulfil the same assurance he had given when his brother Nawaz Sharif was leaving the country.

“The question is how can Shehbaz Sharif’s guarantee be accepted when he couldn’t fulfil the assurance he had given for the return of another absconder [Nawaz Sharif]?” the minister asked.

He pointed out that when Shehbaz was giving Nawaz’s guarantee, the government was hopeful that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the court would call him and ask that he had given guarantee for his elder brother to comeback.

Chaudhry said that the opposition had the same stance and referred to PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s call for Nawaz Sharif to comeback in one of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) meetings. “The opposition also believes that Nawaz Sharif is a fugitive,” he further maintained.

Shahzad Akbar announced that the government will file an appeal against the bail orders of Shehbaz Sharif, adding that the LHC was not properly assisted in the case. He said that Shehbaz Sharif’s name exists in PNIL, “which is separate from the ‘blacklist’.” He claimed that Shehbaz had not properly assisted the court, adding that the Supreme Court had deliberated on the PNIL, and standard operating procedures existed for it.

“Because issues have been raised regarding it and some clarifications are needed, the government will appeal the order on those bases and after that it will be seen what the next step will be,” he added.

He also maintained that there were contradictions in Shehbaz’s bail permission, adding that as per PLD [Pakistan Legal Decisions] 2019, law prohibits conclusion on merits of the case as it leads to prejudice. He added that “documentary evidence” of Shehbaz’s corruption containing 55 volumes were already in the courts.

He also accused the PML-N leadership of misleading the people that Shehbaz’s corruption has not been proven in the courts. He also hoped that the PML-N president would have to answer the “huge plundering” of the national wealth.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on May 8 stopped Shehbaz Sharif from leaving the country despite having court orders as the agency had also placed his name on PNIL other than the ‘blacklist’.

Sources said that the FIA had placed the name of Shehbaz Sharif on PNIL which was designed to prevent individuals from going abroad bypassing the lengthy process of putting such people on the exit control list (ECL). Earlier in a series of tweets, Shahzad Akbar stated that according to the court order the authorities concerned have been directed to remove the name of Sharif from blacklist for once and contrary to that if Sharif’s name is in PNIL which is a separate list from blacklist then how this decision would be applied.

The sources said that PNIL had been enacted on the basis of recommendations made by a three-member committee comprising Arshad Mirza, former secretary interior, former Secretary Foreign Affairs Tehmina Janjua and former Director General (DG) FIA Bashir Memon. The committee was constituted by the Supreme Court on February 6, 2018.

The sources further said that the decision to place someone’s name on the ECL is taken by the government while the decision to place someone's name on the blacklist is taken by the DG FIA.

They said that ECL is not the only tool to restrict the movement of individuals; other lists such as the ‘blacklist’, ‘watch list’ and PNIL are also being used by security agencies for the purpose.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021