Pakistan’s ailing ex-PM rejects government’s conditions to travel abroad

Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sits on a plane after landing at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan, July 13, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 November 2019

Pakistan’s ailing ex-PM rejects government’s conditions to travel abroad

  • Nawaz Sharif is in urgent need of medical treatment outside Pakistan, doctor says
  • Government conditionally allowed former premier a one-time travel abroad against surety bonds of $35.5 million with specified date of return

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ailing former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has rejected the government’s conditions placed on his travel abroad despite his rapidly deteriorating health, which his personal physician says requires urgent medical treatment outside Pakistan.
Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Wednesday termed the government’s conditions as “illegal and unconstitutional” saying they were creating “unnecessary hurdles.”
“This is illegal and unconstitutional to link Nawaz Sharif’s travel abroad to certain conditions,” Marriyum Aurangzeb, PML-N spokesperson, said in a statement to media. “The government is playing a dangerous game with Nawaz Sharif’s health.”
She said the arrival of the air ambulance to transport Sharif has also been delayed in the deadlock.
Sharif, 69, suffers from serious immune disorder and is currently serving a seven-year sentence on corruption charges in a prison facility in Lahore. He was released on bail on October 29 due to sharp decline in his health condition.
The federal cabinet on Tuesday held marathon meetings to mull removing Sharif’s name from the country’s Exit Control List (ECL) and gave conditional approval for his travel abroad for medical treatment against surety bonds of $35.5 million, equivalent to the fines imposed on him by the Pakistani courts stressing that this would be a one-time travel with specified date of return.
“We all are concerned about the health of a VIP prisoner [Nawaz Sharif] … However, all cabinet members have unanimously decided the [legal] relief [to him] should be conditional and time-bound,” said Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a press conference here after the cabinet meeting.
He was sentenced to seven years with $25 million fine and ten years in prison with $10.5 million fine last year in two separate corruption cases.
The former prime minister, who has dominated Pakistan’s politics for about three decades, denies all corruption allegations against him, claiming they are politically motivated.
“The government will facilitate him [Sharif] and allow his medical treatment abroad if his family submits guarantees and surety bonds equivalent to the fines imposed on him by the country’s courts,” Awan said. “All cabinet members [during the meeting] had a consensus on one thing: That there should be no unconditional relief [to Sharif].”
However, Sharif’s family refused to submit any surety bonds to the government.
“We have submitted surety bonds in the court for Sharif’s bail. Therefore, there is no need for us to submit any new bonds,” Attaullah Tarrar, PML-N deputy-secretary, told media.
Last week, Sharif’s younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, had pleaded the interior ministry to strike off the former premier’s name from the no-fly list and let him travel abroad for treatment of his multiple ailments. An air ambulance in this regard is also due to arrive in Pakistan on Wednesday, confirmed the party spokesperson.
Sharif was earlier scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom on Monday through a private airline, but his ticket was canceled since the government had not removed his name from the ECL.


Pakistan’s move to reopen border will strengthen business ties, says Afghan special envoy 

Updated 12 July 2020

Pakistan’s move to reopen border will strengthen business ties, says Afghan special envoy 

  • Pakistani-Afghan border was sealed in mid-March as part of containment measures against COVID-19
  • Kabul-Islamabad trade was $1.2 billion per annum before the coronavirus outbreak 

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani government’s decision to reopen all main border checkpoints with Afghanistan will help increase business and reduce trust deficit between the two countries, Afghan special envoy Muhammed Umer Daudzai told Arab News on Sunday, as the Kharlachi crossing in Kurram district, Khyber Pakhtunkwa resumed operations after a long coronavirus closure.

The Pakistani-Afghan border was sealed in mid-March as part of containment measures against the COVID-19 outbreak. After reopening its crossings at Chaman in Balochistan, and Torkham, Ghulam Khan and Angoor Adda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past few weeks to facilitate trade, Pakistan on Saturday unsealed Kharlachi, which is the fifth main checkpoint on the borderline.

“These all are very positive signs. This (border opening) is a step toward right direction. This will increase businesses, people-to-people contact and remove trust-deficit,” the Afghan special envoy for Pakistan said.

Pakistani Foreign Office spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui also said the border’s reopening will help strengthen bilateral ties.

“The opening of the fifth Kharlachi border in Kurram tribal district with Afghanistan tends to encourage trade between the two countries, which will help strengthen their ties in future,” she told Arab News.

According to Faiz Muhammad from the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Pakistan’s move to reopen the five border crossings with Afghanistan was “a remarkable initiative” and would have a huge positive on trade between the two countries.

“Pakistan can regain Afghanistan trade market if it offers incentives to traders and reduce duty on items,” said the senior executive at SCCI, the chamber which role is to stimulate trade and business activity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province in which most border crossings with Afghanistan are located.

He said that the quantum of Kabul-Islamabad trade was $1.2 billion per annum before the coronavirus outbreak and dropped to an estimated $1 billion after the border closure.