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LAHORE: Pakistan Mus­lim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif is leaving for London on Saturday (today) to see his ailing sister-in-law Begum Kulsoom Nawaz whose condition is stated to be critical after she suffered a heart attack.

“Shahbaz Sharif is leaving for London on Saturday morning. He will inquire after the health of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz who is admitted to a London hospital in a critical condition. He will celebrate Eidul Fitr with PML-N quaid Nawaz Sharif and his family there,” PML-N central media committee chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed told Dawn on Friday.

He said Begum Kulsoom’s condition was still serious and all in the party were very concerned about her health and were praying for her recovery.

Talking to reporters in London on Friday, Hussain Nawaz said her mother’s condition was critical as she had been on a ventilator. “However, she is showing some signs of improvement,” he added.

Earlier, Maryam tweeted that her mother had a heart attack on Thursday. “Ami (mother) had a sudden cardiac arrest this morning when we were on the flight and is in ICU and on the ventilator since. Earnest request for duas (prayers),” she said.

Nawaz Sharif, Maryam, Hasan and Hussain remained in the hospital for sometime on Friday and discussed Begum Kulsoom’s health condition with doctors.

Begum Kulsoom was diagnosed with lymphoma (throat) cancer in August last. She had undergone several sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Initially, she showed signs of improvement but of late her condition deteriorated. Her sons — Hasan and Hussain — and daughter Asma remained with her throughout her treatment in London while Nawaz Sharif and Maryam could only visit her for a couple of times.

Mr Sharif and Maryam arrived in London on Thursday to see Begum Kulsoom after getting a respite from day-to-day court hearing in corruption cases. They have promised to return to Pakistan next week.

“Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam should have been allowed to regularly visit the ailing Begum Kulsoom in London, but a ‘heartless approach’ created hurdles in this regard,” Mushahid Hussain Syed said, adding that Mr Sharif was a three-time prime minister and not a fugitive that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should ask the interior ministry to place his name on the Exit Control List (ECL).

“Nowhere in the civilised society has this happened. Mr Sharif and Ms Maryam have showed tremendous grace under pressure as they appeared 100 times before the accountability court in these references,” Mr Syed said, adding that Mr Sharif’s spirits remained unbowed despite all odds.

Political leaders also expressed concern about the health of Begum Kulsoom and prayed for her early recovery.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan said: “All our prayers are with Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. May Allah grant her Shifa e Kamila.”

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said their prayers were with Begum Kulsoom, adding that may Allah give her health and a long life.

Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani prayed for early recovery of Begum Kulsoom.

PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat, Pervaiz Elahi and Moonis Elahi also prayed for the recovery of Begum Kulsoom. “Begum Kulsoom is a brave woman, a kind mother and a faithful wife. We pray for her early recovery and return to home,” Chaudhry Shujaat said.

Shahbaz Sharif tweeted: “My Bhabhi Begum Kulsoom Nawaz is being kept in ICU due to her serious condition. The whole family is praying for her recovery. As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, I ask my compatriots to join me in prayers for her speedy recovery. The power of prayer is paramount.”

Begum Kulsoom was pitched by the PML-N in NA-120 Lahore by-poll after her husband was de-seated following his disqualification as prime minister in the Panama Papers case. Although she was diagnosed with throat cancer, the party went ahead with her nomination in the by-election that she won in last September. Maryam ran her mother’s campaign successfully in her absence. After the victory, Begum Kulsoom sent a message of thanks to the voters and party workers of the constituency.

After her return from exile along with her family in 2007, Begum Kulsoom preferred to maintain a low profile in politics. She earned the title of a ‘brave lady’ for her struggle to bail out her husband and in-laws from former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf’s captivity following the 1999 coup.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2018