LAHORE - Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Accountability Barrister Shahzad Akbar has said that it was responsibility of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif to ensure Nawaz Sharif’s return as guarantor.

While addressing a press conference in Lahore on Saturday, he said that the ex-PM had gone to London on medical ground but seen roaming in streets. Flanked by Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill and Provincial Information Minister Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan, Shahzad Akbar said that the ex-PM was allowed to get medical treatment from abroad subject to his return to the country within the stipulated time frame. Secondly, he was bound to submit his periodical medical reports and updates to the court and the Punjab government. However, Nawaz had not submitted any such report to either the court or the Punjab government, he claimed. 

He recalled that Nawaz was granted bail by the Islamabad High Court for eight weeks on medical grounds in the Al Azizia case. The bail was given with the condition that after eight weeks, in case he does not recover, the Punjab government will take up the matter under CrPC and conduct a proper hearing, he said, adding, Shehbaz Sharif filed an undertaking in the Lahore High Court that Nawaz will return to Pakistan after the required medical procedures. “After the eight-week bail had expired, Nawaz had appealed to the Punjab government for an extension in his bail.”


Akbar said since the bail was granted on medical grounds, the Punjab government constituted another medical board which demanded fresh reports of Nawaz’s treatment in London. He claimed that this board was not satisfied with the reports as the PML-N supremo had “not even been administered an injection” over there. The medical board had recommended that he (Nawaz) should not be given an extension in bail, he added.


After that three hearings took place this year where his lawyer, doctor, and members of his party appeared to submit the documents validating Nawaz’s health condition. On February 27, the Punjab home department passed a decision rejecting extension in bail and demanded that Nawaz should return to Pakistan immediately and surrender himself to the authorities.


Highlighting the importance of home department’s decision, Akbar said that Nawaz, through his counsel, had filed an application in the Islamabad High Court claiming that he had not received the government’s decision. But, he said, the PML-N had received the decision. “I have brought this order with me so that someone may send it to him.” The order has also been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the direction that a letter should be sent to the British government, he said.


Akbar further said that recently the IHC declared Nawaz “an absconder” as his bail had expired. “The federal government has decided to take the matter forward with the help of NAB,” he said. “This dual standard of accountability cannot take place in Pakistan as common people who hardly get parole return [to serve their sentence] and Nawaz, who has been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court and found guilty in two cases, is enjoying his life in London.”


He made it clear that this was not a personal vendetta and that it was the government’s objective to uphold the writ of law. He said the former PM “will not be able to enter practical politics for the next seven centuries. You (Nawaz) have been declared disqualified for life.”


To a query, he said that Pakistan has an agreement with Britain for the “exchange of criminals and the law is same everywhere for criminals.”


When asked about Nawaz’s further stay in London, Akbar said the former PM’s political activism is restricted to the Oxford Street only. He said his daughter Maryam’s participation is limited to Twitter.

About Ishaq Dar, he said he has also been declared an absconder by an accountability court in 2017. 


“We won’t let go Ishaq Dar either. We will bring him back,” he said. “Nawaz’s children will also be brought back.” About Shehbaz Sharif, Akbar said the PML-N president “is free nowadays and should appear before the NAB.” He added that the relevant institutions have stepped up efforts to prosecute Jahangir Tareen and Salman Shehbaz. 


While talking about “NRO plus”, a reference to the opposition’s proposed amendments to the National Accounta¬bility Ordinance (NAO-1999), Akbar said Imran Khan won’t even give the “N” of “NRO plus “ to the opposition, urging it to stop making a joke out of the legislation.


He further said that Pakistan was in danger of moving from the Financial Action Task Force’s “grey list” to “black list”. “If Pakistan were to be pushed into that list, we would become like Iraq and Iran after the wars. We wouldn’t even be able to import medicines [due to the sanctions imposed].”


Akbar said after receiving a list of recommendations from the FATF, a civil servant had been appointed as Director-General FATF. In-charge institutions such as the Counter Terrorism Department, State Bank, Federal Investigation Agency, National Accountability Bureau, ministries, and provincial government were also involved to address the FATF issue.


He said, “all the watchdogs were made non-functional and an institutional capture took place that was noted by the international forum.” He said the PTI views money laundering as a serious offence while the opposition did not consider it as “serious crime.” He said, “The biggest bottleneck is money laundering as the opposition is asking us not to bring the crime under serious offences.”