Nawaz Sharif speaks during an event. File
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday allowed seriously ill deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment without any condition after holding a grueling hearing spanning several hours.
The permission was given for four weeks but the period can be extended for treatment if the doctors advised it, a two-judge bench, comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, ruled.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that he holds no grudge against Sharif and the ailing former premier’s health was more important than politics.
A petition challenging the government permission to the ex-premier to leave Pakistan after deposing with the interior ministry an indemnity bond worth Rs7.5 billion was filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif on Friday with the request for urgent proceedings.
The hearing was repeatedly adjourned to deliberate upon the stands taken by the two sides.
The bench directed Sharif and his brother Shahbaz to submit a written undertaking about the former prime minister's return from abroad after completing his treatment.
He instantly signed an undertaking ensuring that Sharif will come back after treatment. The government side objected to it and said there was no mention of Rs7.5b bond and the decision of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
After consultations with the federal government, Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Ishtiaq A. Khan filed a counter-document to which the other side objected.
However, finally the bench said it would present a draft after merging the two documents. It handed the paper to the two sides after a few hours. However, Khan rejected it as well after consulting the government.
The bench then said that this process was going on since morning, therefore, the time for a decision by it has come. Then, it announced its verdict.
Following the court's directions, Sharif’s legal team submitted a handwritten draft of the undertaking to the court, which said that as soon as doctors abroad permit, the ex-premier will come back to the country without wasting a moment. "Sharif will return and face the cases against him in court.”
The two-page document pointed out the former premier was leaving Pakistan on the recommendations of Pakistani doctors.
Khan said it did not mention when Sharif would leave Pakistan and when he would return. He argued that the IHC had granted bail to Sharif for a specific time period.
The counsel contended that to ensure the return of Sharif, the condition of indemnity bond was placed. He demanded that the petitioners provide a time frame for the former premier’s return.
Khan said that the government had prepared a draft in response to the ones by Sharif 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 United Kingdom would be treating Sharif 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 Sharif enjoying a burger in a UK shop," responded the additional attorney general.
The court suggested to mention in Sharif's draft that his medical reports would also be shared with the government.
Sharif can submit the bonds to the court and not the government, if he wants, Khan 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 Sharif. If his health improves, the federal government's board can examine him, the bench pointed out.
After hearing arguments, the court said it would present its own draft for the undertaking and hand it over to lawyers of both sides.
Earlier, the bench asked Shahbaz, who was in court for the hearing, if he was willing to guarantee that Sharif will return. To this, Shahbaz said: "God will bring him back."
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