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A division bench of Lahore High Court on Saturday allowed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment for four weeks without submitting indemnity bonds.

The bench comprising Justice Ali Baqir Najfi and Justice Sardar Naeem gave its verdict after hearing the petition filed by PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and directed the interior ministry to remove the name of Main Nawaz Sharif from the Exit Control List (ECL).

The court also observed that the period of treatment could also be extended on the advice of doctors and the government may contact Nawaz Sharif through foreign embassy. The court also directed Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif to submit a written undertaking about the former prime minister's travel abroad for medical treatment and his return.

Shahbaz Sharif signed the undertaking on a stamp paper of Rs 50 at the office of the registrar LHC and later the registrar also went to Jati Umra for taking signature of Nawaz Sharif on the undertaking.

The federal government had set condition for Nawaz Sharif to pay a Rs 7 billion surety bond if he wants to travel abroad for medical treatment. The government had also given only a one-time four-week permission to ailing Sharif to get his medical treatment in London.

Earlier, the court inquired whether the government's memorandum has been issued on humanitarian grounds. The LHC asked Sharif's counsel if his client wanted to submit the indemnity bond or not and subsequently allowed him to ask the PML-N supremo before informing the court about the matter.

The federal government's lawyer maintained that the government was aware of Sharif's critical health condition and allowed him to go abroad on submission of indemnity bond. "The former premier can submit the bond to the court if he does not want to submit it to the government," the counsel added.

"We imposed conditions to uphold the writ of the court," he contended and added that "if the former prime minister wants to go abroad for treatment, he can go for a specific period but first he has to satisfy the court. "If the court is satisfied, the government will have no objections," the law officer added.

The bench asked PML-N President Shahbaz, who was in court for the hearing, if he was willing to guarantee that Nawaz will return. To this, Shahbaz said: "Nawaz Sharif will return back after getting treatment."

"What role will you have in bringing him back to the country?" the court asked Shahhaz. To this, he said, "I am also going with him."

In his argument in the courtroom, Sharif's defence counsel pointed out that his client had returned back to the country while leaving his ailing wife in the UK and he had never violated courts' directives.

"Three references had been filed against Nawaz Sharif at the time when he was abroad and added that Sharif has always believed in supremacy of the law," he added.

"Nawaz Sharif appeared before the courts in the reference in accordance with orders," he went on to say, while recalling that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a reference against Sharif in the light of the Supreme Court of Pakistan's order.

He said his sentence and fine have been suspended by the court, and if the matter is in the court, the government cannot intervene in it.

"In the trial of 18 months, Nawaz Sharif appeared before the courts and he was sentenced to jail in the Avenfield Reference. The court therefore adjourned the proceedings for drafting undertaking to be submitted with the court.

Following the court's directions, the PML-N legal team submitted a handwritten draft of the undertaking to the court, which said, "As soon as doctors abroad permit Nawaz to return, he will come back to the country without wasting a moment."

"Nawaz Sharif will return and face the cases against him in court," it added. The two-page document pointed out the former premier was leaving the country on the "recommendations of Pakistani doctors". After the hearing was resumed, the law officer opposed the undertaking submitted and said it did not mention when Nawaz would leave Pakistan and when he would return.

He argued that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had granted bail to Nawaz Sharif for a specific time period. The counsel contended that to ensure the return of Nawaz Sharif, the condition of indemnity bond was placed. He demanded that the petitioners provide a time frame for Nawaz's return.

He said the government had prepared a draft in response to the ones by Nawaz and Shahbaz, under which the government will be able to send, when it deems fit, a medical board abroad to establish whether the former premier could travel or not.

The court clarified that the doctors in the United Kingdom would be treating Nawaz while the government's board will do a check-up to determine his fitness for travel.

"The board will also submit another application if it finds Nawaz Sharif enjoying a burger in a UK shop," responded the law officer. The court suggested to mention in Nawaz's draft that his medical reports would also be shared with the government.

Nawaz Sharif can submit the bonds to the court and not the government, if he wants, the counsel added. The bond is not currency, they are just papers of ownership, he said.

Justice Najafi remarked that in his opinion it was not fair for the government to place conditions after the IHC had granted bail to Nawaz Sharif. If Nawaz's health improves, the federal government's board can examine him, the bench stated.

The court at this said it would present its own draft for the undertaking and hand it over to lawyers of both sides. The hearing was again adjourned for the time being.

The lawyers of both sides analyzed the draft proposed by the LHC. The proposed draft stated that Nawaz Sharif has been given 4 weeks for his treatment but he can avail extension if health condition is not better. It added that the government may contact former premier through foreign embassy.

The government objected to the draft prepared by the LHC over the terms of Nawaz Sharif's travel abroad and specifically his return to Pakistan.

The lawyers of government raised objections on the proposed draft saying it did not ask for any guarantee.

However, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif said they have no objection on the LHC draft. He said they would completely obey the draft prepared by the LHC. After the hearing resumed, the LHC ordered to remove the name of former premier from ECL and allowed him to travel abroad for 4 weeks to get medical treatment.

PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif after the verdict said there was no need to ask for indemnity bonds by the government.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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