LAHORE: The deteriorating health and treatment of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif reverberated in the Punjab Assembly when immediately after the start of the session, former speaker Rana Iqbal Ahmed took the rostrum and asked the chair to pass a judgment on the issue.

As soon as the proceedings started at around 1pm, which were already late by two hours, Rana took the mike to make a passionate plea for treatment of the former prime minister.

“It has been 59 days when his angiography was recommended by the officially-appointed cardiologist but nothing was done so far,” he told the House.

“Instead of conducting the test, he was taken back to jail. He was once again brought to hospital as his situation deteriorated, but tests and treatment were concentrated on kidneys rather than heart. He was taken back to jail rather than to the cardiologist,” he continued and requested the chair, occupied by young Dost Muhammad Mazari, to pass a directive to the government to ensure better treatment or risk walkout by the opposition.

He was still speaking when more emotional Imran Nazir joined him to warn “if anything goes wrong to Nawaz Sharif, the responsibility shall lie with the ‘tabdeeli sarkar’ (government for change), and it would carry a very heavy political cost. After all, a three-time prime minister’s health is being made a political joke. The late Kalsoom Nawaz fell ill and her health was converted into a political point-scoring game. We lost her! Now, the same treatment is being meted out to Nawaz Sharif. This cannot go on and the opposition would continue protesting,” he threatened and the opposition did walk out.

As the opposition walked out, Raja Basharat, law and parliamentary affairs minister, stood to answer speeches and insisted that the Punjab government was already extending all possible treatment and is ready to do whatever it takes to ensure full treatment.

“Last night, the government was told that he (Nawaz Sharif) was not feeling well but he refused to go to hospital. The Punjab government is dealing with a prisoner, who wants treatment on his own terms, at a place of his choice and by a doctor selected by him. He has made situation difficult for the government but we are ready to cooperate every which way – provided rules allow. The Punjab and Pakistan have a battery of very competent doctors and all of them could be called for the purpose. The opposition should tell us, which doctors it wants to treat Nawaz Sharif and the government would arrange it,” he assured.

He was still speaking when a lone member of the Opposition returned to point out quorum but the chair ignored the call and let the minister complete his speech. Immediately after the speech, he declared the quorum complete and let the Treasury members vent their anger on the opposition and lampoon it for failing to build even one hospital during the 30-year rule where he could be treated.

The House returned to normal business for the day after spending good 20 minutes on the issue but only to run through just five questions earmarked [for the day] within next 15 minutes, pass a bill – Mir Chakar Khan Rind University of Technology at DG Khan – quickly in the opposition-less House.

The house would meet on Thursday morning.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2019

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