Nawaz delays departure as govt drags feet on ECL

Law minister to chair panel meeting today as NAB puts ball in Centre's court

Our Correspondent November 11, 2019
Deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Nawaz Sharif rescheduled his departure to the UK on Monday after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) threw the ball back in the federal government's court, saying it was the “competent authority” regarding removal of the name of former prime minister from the Exit Control List (ECL).

Following NAB’s reply, the government convened the meeting of the federal cabinet's sub-committee on Tuesday to discuss the application filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif, seeking the removal of Nawaz's name from the ECL on humanitarian grounds.

Federal Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem would preside over the meeting to be attended by home and law secretaries, in addition to other officials concerned.

The sub-committee is likely to be in place before tomorrow's federal cabinet meeting. Its recommendations will be presented at the federal cabinet meeting.

Nawaz was scheduled to leave for London via Doha on Monday morning along with his brother Shehbaz Sharif and family physician Dr Adnan Khan. However, he had rescheduled his departure for Tuesday.

It seemed the government was reluctant in removing Nawaz’s name from the ECL. Earlier, the interior ministry had sought NAB’s reply on the matter, but the country’s premier graft buster body threw the ball back in the federal government’s court.

In response to a letter from the ministry, according to sources, NAB said that it was not in its authority to include and remove Nawaz's name from the ECL. "This authority lies with the government," the NAB reply said, according a source.

Earlier, the government had said that the decision to remove Nawaz’s name from the ECL would be taken in the light of NAB’s recommendations and the reports of the medical board constituted to assess former prime minister’s health.

“The decision to remove Nawaz’s name will be taken in light of recommendations of NAB and the medical board,” Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information told a private TV channel.

And Dr Yasmin Rashid, the Punjab Health Minister, said: “The medical board held a meeting last night and has informed that some of Nawaz’s tests are unavailable in Pakistan. Their report was insufficient and so they have been told submit more details in this regard.”

Later, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar told reporters in Lahore that Nawaz’s name will be removed from the ECL on Monday. “We are all worried about his health,” he said. “I am in contact with relevant departments. His name will be removed from ECL today (Monday).”

Punjab govt seeks more clarity over Nawaz’s tests abroad

Nawaz was diagnosed with acute Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets. However, there has been improvement in his platelet count, which fell to a critical level earlier.

The 69-year-old former prime minister is serving a seven-year jail term in the Al-Azizia corruption reference. However, he has been granted bail by both the Lahore High Court and the Islamabad High Court on medical grounds.

PML-N concerned

In a statement, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Secretary Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the delay caused by the ambiguity surrounding removal of Nawaz’s name from the ECL was posing serious danger to his life.

“The negative effects caused by the delay in transporting Nawaz to an overseas medical facility are complicating his already worsening health,” she said, adding that the air-ambulance could only be scheduled after there was a clear date and time of travel decided.


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