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LHC to hear petition filed by Shehbaz Sharif for Nawaz Sharif

16 November, 2019

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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Friday admitted for hearing a petition filed by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif for unconditional removal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name from the exit control list (ECL).

A two-member bench headed by Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and comprising Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem resumed the hearing of the case, wherein the federal government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted their replies to the bench, a private TV channel reported.

The court dismissed the NAB and federal government’s stance on the matter. In its written verdict, the LHC said the federal government’s objection regarding the court’s jurisdiction is not right, adding that the case falls under its jurisdiction. 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 (today).

Earlier during the hearing, the federal government urged the court to maintain its condition of seeking a security bond from the former prime minister. Appearing on behalf of the federal government, Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq A Khan objected to the maintainability of the petition and requested that the petition be dismissed for being ‘non-maintainable’. He contended that Nawaz should approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) instead for removal of his name from the ECL, as the federal government has placed his name on the list and the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the plea.

The government in its 45-page reply opposed the removal of Nawaz’s name from the ECL without a security bond. It argued that the PML-N supremo is convicted which is why he should not be allowed to leave the country without submitting a security bond.

During the hearing, NAB also submitted its four-page reply to the court. Following the submission of the response, the court took a recess for an hour to allow the petitioner’s counsel to read the responses.

As the hearing resumed, Nawaz’s counsel Amjad Pervez stated that the LHC can hear the petition as the NAB is a federal institution. The counsel argued that the condition of furnishing Rs 7.5 billion surety bonds is not based on any provision of law. He added the government’s condition carries no legal standing as the petitioner has been granted bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case by the LHC and his sentence in Al-Azizia reference has been suspended by the IHC.

He contended that Nawaz’s name was placed on the ECL in the wake of pending cases against him. He pointed out that the former prime minister sent an application to the interior ministry for removal of his name from the ECL but the federal government issued the impugned order on Nov 13, allowing Nawaz to proceed abroad for treatment only after furnishing indemnity bond. He further said that Nawaz enjoys fundamental rights under Article 4 & 15 of the constitution to move freely.

The court then asked the attorney general to tell whether the fine imposed by the government was part of the accountability court verdict. Responding to the query, the additional attorney general said the federal government has sought surety bond equivalent to the fine imposed by the Islamabad accountability court on Nawaz. Nawaz’s counsel also admitted that the amount of indemnity bond sought by the government is equivalent to the fine imposed on the petitioner in Al-Azizia reference by an accountability court.

The law officer said the PML-N leader’s sentence has been only suspended in Al-Azizia reference and not set aside. The bench observed that the IHC apparently suspended the sentence of the petitioner and not the fine. Justifying the government’s move to seek surety bond, he argued that if a person allowed to travel abroad does not come back, the federal government will be held responsible, as had happened in Pervez Musharraf case.

“Does the ECL ordinance give the federal government authority to give permission for a one-time visit abroad?” asked the court.

To this, Pervez said the impugned order of November 13 is not based on any provisions of Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981, and Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010, empowering the federal government to impose extra conditions for his one-time permission to travel abroad especially after he had been granted bail by two different high courts.

He said Nawaz is seriously ill and the medical board has suggested his treatment abroad. The counsel said the courts are there to take action if the petitioner violates their orders of bail and suspension. The government has no role in the whole matter, he added.

The law officer sought time to verify when asked whether the impugned order of the government for the indemnity bond is a result of any consensus or whether the petitioner has been placed on the ECL on the recommendation of Lahore or Islamabad office of the NAB. The law officer also sought time to file para-wise comments to the petition, which the bench duly allowed. The bench also asked the law officer to assist it on a legal point as to whether the government has the power to put any condition for removing name from the ECL if there is an order by the court.

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