LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Friday admitted for hearing a petition filed by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif challenging the government condition for the ailing former premier Nawaz Sharif to furnish a multibillion-rupee indemnity bond to secure removal of his name from the no-fly list.
The court will be taking up the petition today (Saturday). It had earlier set the hearing for Monday, but reviewed its decision after the petitioner’s attorneys requested an early hearing considering the deteriorating health of the 69-year-old PML-N supremo.
When the proceedings began on Friday, Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, the head of the LHC division bench hearing the matter, sought a written response from the federal government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor.
When submitted, Justice Najafi asked the petitioner’s lawyers to go through the copies of the written reply. They told the bench that they had already heard the government’s stance on the matter through TV channels.
The judge said media statements were irrelevant in the court and adjourned the proceedings until 3:30pm, so that the written reply could be examined.
In its reply, the government argued that the LHC did not have a jurisdiction to hear the petition. As the bench reassembled, the lawyers from both sides presented their arguments.
Amjad Pervez, the petitioner’s counsel, referred to the case of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, contending that the former military ruler’s name was on Exit Control List (ECL) but he was still allowed by the previous government to travel abroad for treatment.
Justice Najafi observed that Musharraf was not convicted at that time and that the judgement could not be applied to this case.
The lawyer then cited the case of super-model Ayyan Ali, who was also permitted to travel abroad. He argued that under Article 199, the LHC could hear the petition and it fell under its jurisdiction.
Justice Najafi asked if the ailing politician’s name had been placed on the no-fly list on directives of NAB Lahore or NAB Islamabad. The judge also noted that according to records, NAB has left it at the discretion of the federal government to decide whether it wanted to remove Nawaz’s name from the ECL or not.
Justice Najafi asked Additional Attorney General (AAG) Ishtiaq A Khan which court a person should approach if he was resident of Karachi but his name was placed on the no-fly list in Islamabad. The AAG responded that every case had different merits and record.
He further argued that as the Sharif family patriarch had been sentenced by an accountability court in Islamabad and the appeal against the verdict was also being heard by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), a petition seeking removal of his name from the ECL could only be heard by the IHC.
The AAG contended that the Supreme Court while granting bail to Nawaz had restrained him from travelling abroad.
Justice Najafi observed that the case being cited by the government counsel was not related to the matter of the ECL and the issue at hand concerned a convicted person who was extremely ill.
The AAG then argued that the government had not asked the Sharif family to submit surety bonds but an indemnity bond and if Nawaz had reservations over it, he could approach the IHC.
After hearing the arguments, the bench reserved its decision on the maintainability of the constitutional petition and adjourned the proceedings for a while.
After the bench reassembled for the second time, Justice Najafi read out the order: “The petitioner and Mian Nawaz Sharif, both are residents of Lahore and at present Nawaz Sharif is facing an inquiry in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case before NAB in Lahore. Needless to observe that in the order passed by the IHC while suspending the sentence of the petitioner in the Avenfield reference, the matter was referred to the Punjab government for further investigation.”
The court admitted the petition observing that it had the jurisdiction to hear the matter.