The Lahore High Court on Friday admitted for hearing a petition challenging the government’s condition of furnishing indemnity bonds in order to secure the removal of ailing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List.
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 today, Saturday.
At the outset of the hearing, the court asked if the federal government had submitted its written reply, to which the government’s lawyer, Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Ishtiaq A Khan, responded in the affirmative. The court asked that a copy of the response be given to the petitioner’s lawyer and told them that if they needed, they could take time to read the government’s response. Following this, the proceedings were briefly adjourned. In its 45-page reply, the federal government opposed the request seeking unconditional permission for Nawaz to travel abroad, saying the LHC does not have the jurisdiction to hear the petition.
Cases against Nawaz are being heard in various courts of the country, the government said, adding that it has allowed the former prime minister to travel abroad for four weeks.
According to the government response, Nawaz’s name was added to the ECL based on the National Accountability Bureau’s recommendation. The government pleaded to the court to reject the petition as non-maintainable. Following the recess, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif’s counsel Amjad Pervez argued that the LHC has the authority to hear the petition.
He said that several past court judgements support their stance, and presented copies of court orders to support his argument for Nawaz’s name to be taken off the ECL unconditionally.
The government cannot deprive anyone of their fundamental rights, the lawyer argued, citing the example of former military ruler Gen (Retd) Pervez Musharraf who was allowed to travel abroad. At this, the bench pointed out that Musharraf’s case could not be referenced because he had not been convicted when his name was taken off the no-fly list.
Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, who was heading the bench, noted that according to the record NAB has left the entire matter relating to removing Nawaz’s name from the ECL to the government.
Adding to this point, Advocate Pervez said NAB had in a letter stated that the authority to add or remove names from the ECL rested with the federal government. He said following this statement, the federal law minister had asked NAB to again clarify its stance on the matter. Government counsel AAG Khan informed the court that the names of Nawaz and his children Maryam Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz were added to the ECL in the Avenfield case after the Supreme Court had ordered the filing of references against them. He said Nawaz’s name was added to the no-fly list after fulfilling all legal requirements. Using an example, the bench asked which court a person would approach if they were a resident of Karachi and their name was added to the ECL in Islamabad.