ISLAMABAD - The government yesterday decided to allow Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for four weeks but said he will have to deposit around Rs7 billion as indemnity bond before leaving the country.

“Nawaz Sharif will be allowed to go abroad for four weeks on one-time condition. Nawaz Sharif or his brother Shehbaz Sharif should deposit Rs7 [to Rs7.5] billion as an indemnity bond,” said Law Minister Farogh Naseem while speaking after a meeting of a cabinet sub-committee seized with the matter.

Flanked by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar at a press conference, Barrister Farogh said the former prime minister had to return to the country after recovering from the illness as he was a convict in a corruption case and under trial in another one.

The government, he said, was seeking the indemnity bond as a precaution to respond to the court’s queries in case Nawaz did not return to the country.

“Keeping Nawaz Sharif’s deteriorating condition in view, the subcommittee has given him one-time permission to travel abroad but his name is not being permanently removed from the Exit Control List,” said the minister, who earlier presided over the cabinet sub-committee meeting.

The decision was taken on an application filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President and Leader of Opposition in National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, who sought removal of the name of his brother from the ECL so he could go abroad for treatment.

A government notification issued later said that either Nawaz or Shehbaz will need to deposit 25 million dollars (or an equal amount in Pakistani currency), 8 million British Pound (or an equal amount in Pakistani currency), and 1.5 billion rupees as indemnity.

In their immediate response to the announcement, both Nawaz Sharif and his party rejected the government decision. Nawaz called it “illegal” and “inhuman”, while PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the decision was based on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “prejudice” and “political revenge.”

However, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif will convene a meeting of the senior party leadership today (Nov 14) to consider the government offer and formulate a formal response. After the meeting, he will speak to the media to make their final decision public.

After the government’s decision was made public, Sharif spoke to his party leaders and made it clear that he will not accept the ‘illegal’ condition. He blasted the government’s conditional offer saying the rulers were playing with the lives of their political opponents, close aides of the Sharif family told The Nation, citing party consultations.

Marriyum, on the other hand, said how can anyone guarantee that Nawaz Sharif will recover within four weeks. “The decision of the cabinet’s subcommittee is beyond comprehension,” she said.

She termed the subcommittee’s indemnity bond condition as unlawful adding that surety bonds had already been deposited in the courts. “At the time of bail, all constitutional and legal requirements were completed, and bail bonds were also submitted”, she added. Marriyum asserted that there could not be a government above the court.

The PML-N spokesperson said that every moment in Nawaz Sharif’s treatment was valuable and to delay it using different tactics was worst king of “cruelty.” “The government is playing a dangerous game with the life and health of Nawaz Sharif,” she maintained.

Interestingly, Farogh Nasim had already clarified at the press conference that the assurances being sought from the Sharif family were a legal requirement, advising against using them for “political point scoring”.

The Sharif family had a right to reject the government’s decision or to challenge it in a court of law, he declared.

The minister also said the duration for Nawaz’s stay abroad could be extended subject to his health condition according to the law and regulations. He cited some court precedents, where the convicts were given one time permission to go abroad for treatment after taking indemnity bonds side by side surety bonds.

The Sharif family had been asked to provide the indemnity bond and not the surety bond, which was the prerogative of courts only, he added. The minister said the country where Nawaz Sharif would get treatment, would also be intimated about the conditions set for his travel abroad.

Responding to a question about General (r) Pervaiz Musharraf, who was allowed to travel abroad for treatment, Farogh Nasim said he had not been convicted in any case, while Nawaz was convicted in a corruption case.

Special Assistant to PM Shahzad Akbar told the press conference that the decision to permit Nawaz to go abroad was taken purely on merit and according to the law.

It would be a one-time permission and his name would not be removed from the ECL as he was convicted in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills graft reference and was facing other cases, including Chuadhry Sugar Mill, he added.

According to the section 2 sub-section 3 of the ECL 1981, he said, any convicted person’s name could not be removed from the ECL. However it provided jurisdiction to the federal government to decide the matter after going through the merits of the case, he said.

In a related development, PML-N Member Provincial Assembly in Punjab Mirza Mohammed Javed announced he was ready to give all his assets to Nawaz Sharif. He said he can give all his property worth Rs250 million to government as a surety for Nawaz Sharif’s travel abroad.

The lawmaker demanded that Nawaz Sharif be allowed to travel abroad to receive better health facilities. Javed also offered the authorities to arrest him and keep him in detention until Nawaz comes back from abroad.

PML (Quaid-e-Azam) chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain yesterday advised Prime Minister Imran Khan not to listen to the people who were opposing relaxation to Nawaz Sharif. “People in power should only spend their energy on ending inflation and unemployment”, he added.

Sharif was admitted to the Services Hospital in Lahore on October 22 from Kot Lakhpat Jail after his platelets dropped to a critically low level of 2,000.

The Islamabad High Court had granted bail to Sharif for eight weeks, suspending his seven-year sentence in the Al Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference on medical grounds. He had also secured bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case from the Lahore High Court on the same ground.

The medical board formed by the government had suggested to allow the ailing former prime minister to seek medical treatment abroad.

Earlier detailing the process followed by the government, Farogh Nasim said the interior ministry had received a request from Shehbaz for the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List.

“The report showed that Nawaz Sharif has a blood disorder, while his platelet count was between 30,000 to 25,000 when it should have been around 150,000 or above. He had also suffered a stroke,” the minister said.

Keeping in view Nawaz’s medical reports of the Sharif Medical City and the Medical Board of Punjab Government, the subcommittee considered the application for removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL) on humanitarian grounds, he added.