ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani on Thursday ruled that the government should provide all possible health facilities to former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Chairing the session, Sanjrani ruled that the government should make arrangements for sending Nawaz abroad for medical treatment and advised against politicking on his health. PML-N Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi raised the issue of poor health of Nawaz Sharif and said the government was seeking surety bond from Nawaz before going abroad for treatment.
Abbasi said the court had also given a go-ahead with regard to the health of Nawaz and the government medical board had also alerted about the serious health risks to him, but the government was insisting on a surety bond. He demanded that Nawaz be put off the ECL, facilitating his treatment abroad.
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To this, Sanjrani directed the Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz and Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Azam Swati to ask the government to do the needful as early as possible.
PPP parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman said ex-president Asif Ali Zardari was being denied consultation with his personal physician. She charged that Zardari had been taken hostage by the government and he had been in confinement for the last several months without conviction. She said the PIMS doctors had also talked about his very poor health.
She emphasised that the NAB must not be used against political opponents and condemned the government for demanding surety bond from Nawaz Sharif. The Senate chairman ruled that Zardari should be provided with all possible health facilities.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif Thursday filed a petition at the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL.
The petition challenged the government’s conditional one-time permission to Nawaz to travel abroad for medical treatment only after submitting Rs7.5 billion surety bond.
The court sought a report and para-wise comments from the federal government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The bench, headed by Justice Ali Baqir Najafi andcomprising Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, heard the petition.
Appearing on behalf of the federal government, Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq A Khan objected to the maintainability of the petition and requested that the petition be dismissed for being “non-maintainable”.
He contended that Nawaz should approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) instead for removal of his name from the ECL, as the federal government had placed his name on the list and the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the plea.
Nawaz counsel Amjad Pervez stated that the LHC could hear the petition as the NAB was a federal institution. The counsel argued that the condition of furnishing Rs7.5 billion surety was not based on any provision of law.
He said the government’s condition carried no legal standing as the petitioner had been granted bail in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case by the Lahore High Court and his sentence in Al-Azizia reference had been suspended by the Islamabad High Court.
He contended that Nawaz Sharif’s name was placed on the ECL in the wake of pending cases against him. He pointed out that Nawaz Sharif had sent an application to the interior ministry for removal of his name from the ECL but the federal government issued the impugned order on Nov 13, allowing Nawaz to proceed abroad for treatment only after furnishing indemnity bond.
He pointed out that Nawaz Sharif had the fundamental rights under Article 4 & 15 of the Constitution to move freely. The court asked the attorney general to tell whether the fine imposed by the government was part of the accountability court verdict.
Responding to the query, the additional attorney general said the federal government had sought surety bond equivalent to the fine imposed by the Islamabad accountability court on Nawaz Sharif.
The counsel for Nawaz also admitted that the amount of indemnity bond sought by the government was equivalent to the fine imposed on the petitioner in Al-Azizia reference by an accountability court.
The law officer added that Nawaz Sharif’s sentence was only suspended in Al-Azizia reference and not set aside. The bench observed that the IHC apparently suspended the sentence of the petitioner and not the fine. Justifying the government’s move to seek surety bond, he argued that if a person allowed to travel abroad did not come back, the federal government would be held responsible, as had happened in Pervez Musharraf case.
“Does the ECL ordinance give the Centre authority to give permission for a one-time visit abroad?” asked the court. Amjad Pervez said the impugned order of Nov 13 was not based on any provisions of Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance 1981 and Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules 2010, empowering the federal government to impose extra conditions for his one-time permission to travel abroad especially after he had been granted bail by two different high courts.
He said Nawaz was seriously ill and the medical board had suggested his treatment abroad. The counsel said the courts were there to take action if the petitioner violated their orders of bail and suspension. The government has no role in the whole matter, he added.
The law officer sought time to verify when asked whether the impugned order of the government for the indemnity bond was a result of any consensus or whether the petitioner had been placed on the ECL on the recommendation of Lahore or Islamabad office of the NAB.
The law officer also sought time to file para-wise comments to the petition, which the bench duly allowed. The bench also asked the law officer to assist it on a legal point as to whether the government had the power to put any condition for removing name from the ECL if there was an order by the court.
“Keeping in view the urgency of the matter, report and para-wise comments… should reach this court by tomorrow,” the bench wrote in its order. The bench will resume hearing at 2pm on Friday (today).
Meanwhile, winding up the debate on the Indian Occupied Kashmir, Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari counted what she called the key measures and decisions taken by the government following August 5 steps by India.
She claimed that for the first time, a cohesive consistent narrative and policy was adopted by the government, whereas a constant and proactive diplomacy was also under way. “We are meeting the challenge in the way we want to the time and places of our own choosing,” she added.
The minister contended that there should be a united front rather than political point scoring on Kashmir issue, as there was no party, which would commend Modi’s policies. She said there should not be allegations flowing from either side in the House.
“Kashmir is the issue of the state of Pakistan, its people and of course Kashmiris and all should contribute to taking it forward holistically with everybody on board,” she argued. She rejected the opposition’s allegation that the government had failed to rise to the challenge posed by Modi government.
She said no government in the post had consistently and cohesively pursued a policy on Kashmir. The minister said the world had been alerted to the unintended consequences of escalation, which India had been resorting to and Balakot surgical strike was one such example that was effectively foiled by Pakistan.
“Our limited and restricted response sent a message to India that we have the capability to choose time and the method of our response and that was needed,” she noted. The government, she added, sent a message very categorically to India that after Kargil we have the capability to choose the time of our response and the type of response’.
She said India was doing ethnic cleansing of minorities not only in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, but also in its other parts. She added that seeking advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice was very important and the government was working on that, as rape, among other crimes, was being used as weapon of war in the IOK and there were rape cases registered with Indian courts.
The government, she noted, would be exploiting the aspect of human right abuses and violations in Occupied Kashmir at appropriate world bodies.
Later, taking part in the debate on the dissolution of PMDC through an ordinance while a similar one was already rejected by the Senate, ex-chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani articulated what he called a charge-sheet against the president.
Without applying his mind, Rabbani said the president signed an ordinance on PMDC, which had already been rejected by the Senate of Pakistan, and moreover he sent references against two judges of the superior judiciary.
He also maintained silence over the withdrawal of prosecution team in a case of high treason against Musharraf for and on behalf of the federation. He questioned the logic behind okaying an ordinance by the president to give amnesty to influential industrialists, IPPs, GINCO, K-Electric and CNG sector by reducing the amount payable by them from Rs417 billion to Rs210 billion under the GIDC ordinance.
Likewise, he got issued a notification for appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan in disregard to the rules and the laid-down procedure, which was later on struck down by the Islamabad High Court.
He also promulgated GIFC ordinance against the judiciary, while no intra-institutional consultation was held. Speaking on the national economy, Rabbani said the government was big business-friendly and consisted of capitalists, big businessmen and representatives of the international financial imperialism.
“This is why, they are totally unaware of the suffering of the common man and it is appalling that advisor on finance said the other day that tomato was available at Rs17 per kg, whereas its actual price was Rs250-300 per kg,” he noted.
The practice of calling and declaring political opponents as traitors, he said, must end but it was not unfortunately.
During the debate on the economic situation, the opposition senators agitated on the absence of advisor on finance and finance secretary.
The chair directed that a letter be written to the prime minister and asked the Leader of the House Shibli Faraz to ensure their presence. PPP senior leader Senator A. Rehman Malik warned that through a well-planned international conspiracy the economy was being damaged.
He said the US State Department Country Report was also continuation of Indian illicit propaganda against Pakistan in addition to placing Pakistan in FATF ‘Grey List’. Senator Malik said that the economic situation, unabated price increases, and rising gas and electricity prices had made the life of common Pakistanis miserable and the government had failed to formulate any doable strategy to control the worst economic situation.
He strongly condemned and expressed grave concern over the US State Department Country Report on terrorism which was highly biased and illogical.
The report was basically another bombshell to be used in FATF against Pakistan, he said and added that India had already started the 5th generation warfare against Pakistan of which the major factor was our economy that was being hit through the FATF.
PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid regretted that the House was debating Kashmir situation and it was informed that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi could not attend the proceedings due to death of his close relative but he had watched him appearing in a TV talk show.
“This is reflective of the government and its ministers’ priorities,” he alleged. He questioned why Kartarpur Corridor happened without any relief for Kashmiris at least in the IOK. He also said two Indian pilots were set free to appease India and Pakistan facilitated the Taliban dialogue with the US and in return got nothing.
He wondered how Pakistan could come out of the economic mess when half of the time dictators had ruled the country while elected leaders were hanged, jailed and exiled. Senator Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party lamented that despite its atrocities and flouting of the UN resolutions and world conventions, the Indian narrative was selling more than Pakistan’s and one major reason was the trade factor, as the UAE had trade volume of $39 billion, while Saudi Arabia had $28 billion with India. He asked why the prime minister was fearful of calling an APC on the Kashmir issue.