[Dawn 12 November 2019] ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE: Following the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) refusal to decide whether former ailing prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name should be removed from the no-fly list, the government on Monday decided that the matter would be settled in the federal cabinet meeting being held on Tuesday (today).

The government called a meeting of a sub-committee of the cabinet to take a decision on an application filed by the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, who wants his elder brother Nawaz Sharif to fly to London for better medical care.

The sub-committee — comprising Law Minister Farogh Naseem as its chairman, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar and the interior secretary — will discuss the issue at its level and apprise Prime Minister Imran Khan about its recommendation after which the PM would take the final decision.

Interestingly, NAB, which on Sunday had asked the interior ministry to provide the medical report of Nawaz Sharif, on Monday asked the government to decide the matter on its own.

“NAB has replied to a letter of the Ministry of Interior that the federal government is competent to decide the matter,” it was officially announced by the anti-graft watchdog on Monday.

“… [I]n view of the urgency displayed by the learned counsel for the applicant [Shahbaz Sharif], and in view of the receipt of the medical report from the specialised healthcare and medical education department, the government of Punjab …. the chairman of the sub-committee has fixed the matter for hearing on 12.11.2019 at 10:00am in the committee room of the federal ministry of law and justice. …” a letter issued by the sub-committee said.

The secretary of the healthcare and medical education department, Punjab, and the chairman of the medical board constituted by the government of Punjab were also directed to appear in person.

Meanwhile, two federal ministers spoke against the removal of Mr Nawaz’s name from the ECL, while the third insisted he (Nawaz) couldn’t be allowed to leave for London till all ‘legal requirements’ were met.

As the government’s indecision forced Mr Nawaz to cancel his flights to London on Sunday and Monday, a perturbed PML-N said the “delay in his departure is posing a serious threat to his life”.

PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn that Attaullah Tarar, on behalf of Shahbaz Sharif, and Mr Nawaz’s physician Dr Adnan Khan, would appear before the sub-committee. “We are hopeful that tomorrow [Nov 12] his name will be removed from the ECL …,” she said.

Federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Faisal Vawda said Mr Nawaz should not be allowed to leave the country. Mr Vawda even indirectly referred to Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Islamabad sit-in as being responsible for the expected departure of Nawaz Sharif.

“Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif are leaving the country (for London) because of whatever is happening in the country. Shahbaz will continue travelling to and from Pakistan. They are going to the land where their absconding relatives [live] …. Earlier, they [the Sharifs] fled to Saudi Arabia,” Mr Vawda tweeted.

Fawad Chaudhry said that all the members of the federal cabinet were not in favour of allowing Nawaz Sharif to go abroad. “First Nawaz Sharif should apologise to the nation for not making one state-of-the-art hospital where he could have his treatment,” he said.

Sources are of the view that the strong opposition of some ministers and the delay in removing Mr Nawaz’s name from the ECL speaks of something fishy.

“PM Khan seems reluctant,” says a source. There are also rumours that ‘some guarantees’ are being sought from Mr Sharif. However, both the government and the PML-N deny this.

Meanwhile, a constitutional petition was filed in the Lahore High Court, seeking to restrain Nawaz Sharif from flying abroad. The petition, filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jafri, argues that this would amount to unfair treatment to other ailing inmates as they would be discriminated against. He apprehends that the former premier will not return home.

Nawaz condition ‘critical’

Marriyum Aurangzeb says Mr Nawaz’s doctors have warned that repeated dose of high potency steroids to stabilise his platelets for travel are an added risk to his life. “The board of doctors formed by the PTI government has recommended that Nawaz Sharif be treated abroad. Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid too has endorsed this,” she said.

“Delay in removing Nawaz’s name from ECL has led to uncertainty among the doctors regarding the right time to administer him steroids,” she said, adding that an air-ambulance to take him to London is arriving on Wednesday.

Dr Adnan said: “The combined opinion of a high-profile medical board consisting of all members from SIMS & SMC unanimously endorsed that Nawaz Sharif should travel abroad to a centre of excellence for definitive diagnosis and treatment. Any delay would compound the risk.”