ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Pakistan's ailing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif would be given a "one-time" permission to travel abroad for his medical treatment for four weeks against indemnity bond worth over Rs 700 crore, Law Minister Farogh Naseem announced on Wednesday.
The three-time prime minister and his PML-N party have refused to meet Imran Khan's government's demand to submit an indemnity bond worth Rs 700 crore for travel to the UK for treatment, saying it was "illegal" and denounced attempts to politicise his health.
Sharif, 69, is suffering from multiple health complications, including erratic platelet count, and is currently being treated at his residence near Lahore where an ICU has been set up.
On Tuesday, Pakistan Cabinet decided to allow Sharif to go to the UK for medical treatment if the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo agrees to sign surety bonds making a commitment that he would return after the treatment and face corruption cases against him.
Announcing the latest move after chairing a consultative meeting of the Cabinet's sub-committee, Naseem said the permission to Sharif will be subject to his family submitting an indemnity bond "to the tune of Rs 7-7.5 billion".
The meeting was held to finalise its recommendations on the matter of removing Sharif's name from the no-fly or the Exit Control List (ECL).
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Naseem said: "Keeping in mind his adverse critical medical condition, Nawaz Sharif will be given four-week long, one-time permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.
"This permission will be subject to Nawaz Sharif or (his brother) Shehbaz Sharif submitting an indemnity bond to the tune of roughly Rs 7-7.5 billion to the satisfaction of additional secretary to the Ministry of Interior," he was quoted as saying by Geo News.
Prime Minister Khan's special assistant on accountability, Shahzad Akbar, said that requests from the Sharif Medical City, as well as the government-formed medical board, were taken into consideration by the meeting.
"Nawaz Sharif has been given this one-time permission only for medical treatment," Akbar said. "It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure a guarantee from him and that that bond was only over surety, not any political gain," he said.
He said the government understood that Sharif was unwell but stressed that the former premier was required to return to Pakistan after his medical treatment was completed. "The Ministry of Interior will issue the letter of permission," he said.
Akbar further noted that no one should forget the PML-N leader had been sentenced in a mega-corruption case and that investigation was still underway in some cases, including that of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills.
Meanwhile, a PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair told the media that his party would not provide any bond for Sharif. "The condition of the government has no legality and we have already said that we will not pledge any kind of surety bond," he said adding that the government was actually playing politics.
Earlier, another senior PML-N leader also rejected the government's offer.
"We have categorically told the government that Sharif would not submit any indemnity bonds worth Rs 7 billion (Rs 700 crores) to the government for removing his name from the no-fly list enabling his departure for London for his treatment," a senior PML-N leader quoted Sharif as saying.
"Nawaz Sharif said the government demand is illegal and can't be met in the presence of the court guarantees."
Nawaz also showed his annoyance over the government's 'tactics' to politicise the issue of his health.
"The government cannot hold another court of its own on the earlier decision of the Islamabad High Court that granted Sharif eight weeks bail on medical grounds," the PML-N leader told PTI, adding the Sharif family may move the court for removal of his name from the ECL if the government did not decide in his favour on Wednesday.
"If something happens to Sharif, Imran Khan and company will be responsible as he is critical and the government is using the opportunity for their dirty politics," he said.
According to his party, an air ambulance is arriving in Lahore on Wednesday to shift him to London if the government removes his name from the ECL.
Sharif is under treatment at his Lahore's Jati Umra House.
His platelet count is said to unstable and is critically low.
Sharif agreed on Friday to go to the UK for treatment, heeding doctors' advice and accepting his family's request.
He was scheduled to leave for London on a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight on Sunday morning. However, he could not leave as his name figured in the no fly-list.
The former prime minister was lodged in the Kot Lakhpat jail but last month he was sent to the custody of the NAB which is probing the Sharif family in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills corruption case.
On December 24, 2018, an accountability court had sentenced Sharif to seven years in prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case and acquitted him in the Flagship case.
On October 29, the Islamabad High Court suspended Sharif's sentence in the Al-Azizia corruption case for eight weeks on medical grounds. The Sharif family has denied all corruption charges and termed them as politically motivated.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)