LAHORE - Following a day-long back-and-forth sessions the Lahore High Court on Saturday finally allowed former premier Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment without submission of indemnity bonds as demanded by the government.

Setting aside all the arguments by government’s counsel to attach strings with the permission, the court allowed the ailing former premier to stay abroad for a period of four weeks that could be extended on the basis of his medical reports.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Ali Baqir Najfi ordered the federal government to remove Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL without any conditions.

The court ruled that Nawaz Sharif would return to the country as and when the doctors declare him fit for travel. The court further directed the applicants to send periodical medical reports of Nawaz to Registrar of the Lahore High Court through Pakistan High Commission in London.

The two-judge LHC bench delivered its final verdict close to 6pm after assuming the hearing at 11:30am. The hearing involved multiple breaks. This was done in a bid to make the two parties agree to a consensus draft of the terms of Nawaz Sharif’s travel abroad and his return after the treatment.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Shehbaz Sharif expressed gratitude over the court decision. In a media talk, he said that today the prayers of his mother, the nation and supporters had been granted.

“I am thankful to Allah that court has allowed Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment,” he said, adding that the court had nullified the government’s “unjust condition of indemnity bonds”.

Following the LHC verdict, Attorney General Anwar Masood Khan said in a statement the court has given an interim order. Though it is not a final verdict, the government will act on it, he added.

Interestingly, the court decision did not come as a blow to the government, which was shirking from taking the responsibility of sending Nawaz out of the country and was actually finding a shoulder to place the burden.

Earlier, the government tried to shift the responsibility to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which refused to oblige. Then the matter was referred to a Cabinet sub-committee, which came up with a demand for an indemnity bond knowing full well that it would not be acceptable to the Sharif family.

In doing all this, the government had in mind that the matter would eventually land in the court that would grant the relief to the ex-PM, saving the ruling PTI of the backlash from it corruption-hating voting base. Much before the LHC decision, the government had decided not to challenge the court verdict in the Supreme Court.

“The court handed down the verdict on an interim basis,” said the Attorney General, adding the case has been fixed for hearing in January when the court will decide whether or not a prisoner can be allowed to go abroad in such a manner. He said the government would then defend the federal cabinet’s decision regarding the plea for removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL.

Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan said further hearing on the matter would resume in third week of January where legal points would be discussed.

He said the agreement draft prepared by the LHC mentioned that government would keep checking health of Nawaz Sharif through foreign embassy. He said the government would again knock the doors of court if Nawaz did not return to the country despite good health.

During the court proceedings the LHC bench had suggested that Nawaz Sharif should mention in his draft undertaking that his medical reports would also be shared with the government.

Justice Baqir Najafi remarked that there was no justification for the government to impose conditions on Nawaz’s travel abroad after the Islamabad High Court verdict.

Nawaz had refused to travel abroad for his medical treatment under the conditions proposed by the government. He was shifted from Kot Lakhpat jail to the Services Hospital last month after his personal physician Dr Adnan Khan raised an alarm over his deteriorating health.

His brother, Shehbaz Sharif had then submitted a request to the interior ministry as well as NAB for the removal of Nawaz’s name from the ECL so that he could travel abroad for medical treatment. The ex-PM was granted bail by the LHC whereas his sentence was suspended by the Islamabad High Court for eight weeks on medical grounds.

Earlier during Saturday’s hearing, PML-N President Shehbaz submitted a draft of undertaking to the court, pledging he would “facilitate” Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan following his treatment. The federal government’s counsel raised objections over the draft arguing that it did not mention the time-frame for return journey.

The court had asked Sharif family to submit a written undertaking that Nawaz would return to Pakistan after his treatment abroad. Shehbaz’s lawyer Shehbaz Sharif submitted a two-page long draft of the affidavit in the court guaranteeing that Nawaz Sharif will return to the country as soon as his health condition improves and that he will face his cases as soon as he returns to the country.

The affidavit said: “I (Shehbaz Sharif) undertake to ensure return of my brother Mian Nawaz Sharif within four weeks or as and when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to return to Pakistan.

“I further undertake to provide /send the periodical medical reports of the doctor duly notarized by the embassy to the Registrar of the Court. I also undertake that if at any stage the federal government has credible information that Nawaz Sharif is living abroad despite his fitness to travel, a representative from Pakistan’s High Commission would have a right to meet with his physician(s) to verify or confirm about his health.”

A draft was also submitted in the court by the government which read, “Nawaz Sharif will travel abroad for medical reason. Whenever, the doctors will declare Nawaz fit, he will return to the country.”

The draft further said, “The federal government has the power to ask Nawaz Sharif to return to the country at any time. Shehbaz Sharif should submit an undertaking declaring that if Nawaz Sharif does not return to the country, Shehbaz will pay the fine”.

However, Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyer rejected the government’s draft terming it unconstitutional.

The court suggested that the word “facilitate” be replaced with the word “ensure” in the undertaking submitted by Shehbaz Sharif, who complied with the order. The court also asked Shehbaz what role he would play to ensure that Nawaz returns to Pakistan.

Shehbaz’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz told the court that former prime minister was ready to submit an assurance to the court that he will return to Pakistan after his recovery. He also pleaded that the former premier was going abroad on the recommendations of the doctors.

An affidavit was also submitted by Nawaz Sharif which read, “I do hereby undertake to return to Pakistan as per my past record to face the process of law and justice within four weeks or as soon as I am declared healthy and fit to travel back to Pakistan by my doctors. I also do hereby bind myself to the undertaking given by my brother Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif.”

The additional attorney general requested that the government’s draft be made part of the court order.

After hearing arguments from the two sides, the court presented its own draft of undertaking and handed it over to the counsels of both the parties.

The government’s lawyer expressed reservations on the draft. He argued that  Nawaz Sharif could submit the bonds to the court instead of the government since the bond was not currency. He pleaded that the condition of furnishing an indemnity bond was demanded in order to “satisfy the court”.

A suggestion also came from the court that the federal government’s board can examine Nawaz Sharif after his recovery. But it was not accepted by Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyers.