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Was Govt’s Demand Of Surety Bonds From Nawaz Sharif Legal?

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On Tuesday, the federal cabinet gave conditional approval to removing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List. According to the decision, Nawaz Sharif could go abroad on the condition that he submit a financial guarantee.

Nawaz Sharif had been granted bail on October 29 for eight weeks on medical grounds. The premier had been released following the submission of the required bail bonds.

With the federal cabinet’s decision of making the removal of Nawaz’s name from ECL dependent on the submission of surety bonds, certain questions arise. First, is it legal for the government to demand surety bonds in this case? Second, when the court has already released someone after they submitted bail bonds, is it not contempt of court on part of the government to ask for surety bonds? Third, it is legal that a convict should go abroad for medical treatment?

Regarding the first question, National Accountability Bureau’s special prosecutor in the Al-Hudaybiya Paper Mills Case Shah Khawar stated that this was the first case in his knowledge wherein the government had demanded surety bonds of a convict when their sentence had already been suspended by the court.

He said that this is not mentioned in the laws of the Exit Control List, adding that if the government had reservations about Nawaz’s returning to the country, then the court could demand more surety bonds, not the federal government.

Moreover, he viewed that asking for surety bonds was not contempt of court on the government’s part. He added that Nawaz Sharif had the option of going to court over the federal government’s demand of surety bonds, and the court could ask the federal government to explain its decision.

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“It would be then be up to the court to have the final say on whether Nawaz should submit surety bonds,” he added.

Furthermore, regarding the legality of a convict going abroad for medical treatment, Advocate Shah Khawar said, “It is clear that Nawaz is a convicted person in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case, but the court suspended his sentence for eight weeks on bail for medical treatment.”

Hence, he added, with Nawaz’s sentence being suspended for eight weeks, it was not an issue that he went abroad for medical treatment.

Moreover, lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani said that there was no place for the federal government demanding surety bonds as making such a demand falls under the purview of the court. “There exists no law according to which the government can take surety bonds and remove someone’s name from the ECL, even under the Exit Control Ordinance. Such a demand is illegal,” Hamdani stated.

Regarding whether this move by the government was contempt of court, Yasser Latif Hamdani viewed that it was not. He said that the government putting restrictions on Nawaz’s movement would be contempt of court.

He added that because putting someone’s name on ECL is the federal government’s domain, this was not contempt of court.

Furthermore, he said that it was perfectly legal for a convict to go abroad for treatment if they had been given bail, their surety bonds had been submitted, and their name was not on the ECL.

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