Sunday May 09, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday questioned Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif's guarantee of returning to Pakistan after seeking medical treatment abroad, saying that he cannot become a guarantor for his own self following his role as a guarantor for "fugitive" Nawaz Sharif.
The statement came during a press conference in Islamabad which the minister was holding alongside the prime minister's aide on interior and accountability, Shahzad Akbar. During the conference, Fawad said that he has the right to appeal cases against Shahbaz Sharif.
"How could we accept Shahbaz Sharif's own guarantee to go abroad and come back?" He cannot be a guarantor for another fugitive," said Chaudhry, referring to Shahbaz as a "fugitive".
The federal minister said that Shahbaz had promised to bring back Nawaz Sharif too, but nothing became of that.
"Allowing Shahbaz Sharif to go abroad for treatment is an abuse of [power] and unfair to thousands of prisoners as they are not even allowed to seek treatment outside of the prison," he said. "If we make an exception for Shahbaz, we will be acknowledging the prevalent class system in society."
Earlier too, Chaudhry had expressed the government's resolve to "seek all legal avenues against the decision".
"The prime minister has pointed out the weaknesses of the justice system many times," he said.
"Shahbaz Sharif has been involved in money laundering worth billions," he said, adding: "For him to run away like this would be great misfortune [for the country]."
The minister said that the Opposition "is not ready to participate in electoral reforms because this rotten system is one that serves their interests".
Adding to the conversation, Shahzad Akbar said that the government is thinking of appealing the Lahore High Court's verdict allowing Shahbaz to leave the country.
"Some members of the PML-N are repeatedly trying to mislead the masses," said Akbar, adding that the government will take a stand before the court and will present evidence against Shahbaz.
On Friday, May 7, the Lahore High Court on granted Shahbaz Sharif "one- time" permission on medical grounds to fly abroad for treatment.
A hearing to remove his name from the government's no-fly blacklist was held, which was presided over by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi.
Shahbaz had approached the court to grant him permission as a cancer survivor to seek treatment abroad. In his petition, moved through Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar and Advocate Amjad Pervez, Shahbaz had stated that after getting bail in Ashiana Housing and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases, he went abroad and came back.
During the court proceedings, the PML-N president produced a return ticket showing his intent to do the same this time around.
The government's counsel argued that treatment can be sought in Pakistan but the defence counsel, Amjad Pervez, stated that his client has obtained bail in all three cases against him — the Ramzan Sugar Mills, Ashiana Housing Scheme, and assets beyond known sources of income cases — and now wishes to exercise his right as a citizen of Pakistan and continue treatment abroad.
It was also argued that an appointment with Shahbaz's doctor, who had been managing his case, was already in place for Monday, and will be hard to secure at another time due to coronavirus. It was further argued that flights to and from the UK could possibly be cancelled in the coming days.
Shahbaz stated that neither is he a "smuggler", nor a "terrorist" for him to be prevented from going abroad. He said that his name was added by the government to the blacklist with "ill intent".
The Opposition leader said that "as soon as his doctors allow" him, he will return to Pakistan.
The court had decided to allow Shahbaz to go abroad on medical grounds from May 8 to July 3 and scheduled a hearing for July 5 to continue deliberation of the removal of his name from the blacklist.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, responding to Fawad Chaudhry's remarks, had said that Shahbaz's name was never in the Exit Control List (ECL).
"Imran [Khan] sahab had the names of his political opponents added to a blacklist. Shahbaz Sharif's name was added to the blacklist out of a desire for political revenge," she had said.
She said the move by the government was "illegal", and the blacklist is one that typically features names of terrorists and anti-state individuals.
Aurangzeb had said that the court kept in mind Shahbaz's past history of travel and then pronounced the verdict, allowing him to travel once more.
"The allegations of billions of rupees worth of money laundering have been left behind on the containers [you stood atop on] and were never proven in any court of law," she had added.