The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted former premier Nawaz Sharif bail for six weeks, suspending his sentence and giving him the freedom to obtain medical treatment of his choice within the country.
He was released from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail after 12:30am on court orders. Scores of PML-N supporters who had waited outside the prison for hours surrounded Sharif's vehicle before it left for his Jati Umra residence.
Hours before his release, the former prime minister's daughter Maryam Nawaz took to Twitter to thank their fans for their support.
"Insha’Allah, MNS [Mian Nawaz Sharif] will be home soon. Want to take this opportunity to thank Allah and then every PMLN supporter. You guys were instrumental in keeping my spirits and hopes high. I have no words to express my gratitude. May Allah bless you all profusely. Ameen," she wrote.
After Sharif's counsel successfully argued that the former prime minister urgently needed angiography, a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa accepted Sharif's appeal on medical grounds.
The court noted that several senior doctors had suggested that Sharif's history of hypertension, cardiac and renal ailments may present a "mild-moderate risk" if he is to undergo angiography, and therefore granting him relief for a limited period was a "reasonable" request.
It subsequently directed Sharif to deposit two bail bonds worth Rs5 million each, receive medical treatment, and surrender his custody after six weeks.
Terms of the bail
1. Nawaz Sharif shall not leave or be allowed to leave the country.
2. Bail will automatically be cancelled upon expiry of six weeks from date of release.
3. Sharif will have to surrender custody voluntarily, failing which he will be arrested.
4. He will not be allowed to apply for further bail till he surrenders his custody.
5. He is allowed treatment from medical practitioners and to avail medical facilities of his choice in Pakistan.
6. If, during the period of his bail, the Islamabad High Court rules adversely in the appeal filed by Sharif before the IHC, the IHC will have full authority to decide how and when to arrest him.
The short order, read out by the chief justice in Court Room No 1, warned that Sharif will have to surrender himself to jail authorities once the six weeks are over. If he fails to surrender, he will be arrested. Sharif was further barred from leaving the country.
Khawaja Haris, Sharif's legal counsel, had requested bail for eight weeks citing an "urgent angiography" required by Sharif.
After the short order was announced, Maryam expressed her relief via a tweet.
Several PML-N leaders, including former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, also welcomed the decision in talks with the media.
Sharif has been serving a seven-year prison sentence awarded to him by an accountability court in the Al Azizia corruption case.
The former premier had earlier filed a bail plea in the IHC on medical grounds, but it was turned down last month, as the high court noted that "none of the reports [about Sharif's condition] suggest that continued incarceration of the petitioner, in any way, would be detrimental to his life".
PML-N leaders Pervaiz Malik, Shaista Pervaiz, Khurram Dastagir, Amir Muqam, Sadia Abbasi, Rana Sanaullah and Pervez Rashid and others had arrived in court ahead of the hearing earlier today. Special security measures were taken to ensure "smooth functioning" of the court during the hearing, which was held in Courtroom No 1.
As the hearing began, Sharif's lawyer Haris apprised the court of the former premier's medical record.
The chief justice observed at the outset that Haris had submitted an additional document to the court, which the lawyer explained was a letter from one Dr Lawrence to Dr Adnan. When the court inquired who Dr Adnan was, Haris replied saying he was Sharif's personal physician.
Justice Khosa remarked that the document was correspondence between "'Person A' and 'Person B'" and not addressed to the court. He therefore questioned the legal status of the letter.
"How can we determine this letter's authenticity? This letter has been written by a private individual to another private individual," Justice Khosa said, adding that the bench had only read it because it was submitted by Haris.
"How can this letter be presented as evidence?" he asked.
Sharif's lawyer clarified that he was "not depending upon the letter" in this case.
Haris told the court that the former premier is suffering from several heart ailments and had gone through open-heart surgery and, therefore, requires an angiography, "which is a complicated matter".
Haris told the court that one of the veins supplying blood to Sharif's heart was 43 per cent blocked. Additionally, he said, Sharif's blood sugar level and blood pressure "need to be monitored at all times".
Justice Khosa in response asked if Sharif could be treated in a hospital in Pakistan, and offered that the court order the former premier's treatment in whichever hospital he chooses.
However, Haris insisted that his client needed bail as his "health [condition] is serious".
Justice Khosa subsequently asked if the petitioner had any other proof of Sharif's deteriorating health apart from Dr Lawrence's letter.
"Should we believe Dr Lawrence's letter as it is? If he had said that [Sharif's] kidney ailment has reached stage four, should we have believed that as well?" the chief justice asked, adding: "You are building your case on medical grounds, and all we have [as evidence] is Dr Lawrence's letter."
"Can we take a letter as a basis [of proof] in a criminal case?" Justice Khosa asked.
Haris told the bench that five medical boards had been formed to examine Sharif's medical condition and every one of them had declared that the former premier's kidney ailment was at the third stage.
They had also recommended that he should be admitted to a hospital. Haris said; adding that Sharif had been "diagnosed with angina" and that he had "already had two attacks".
He insisted that Sharif's condition was "worsening day by day" and urged the court to consider the "seriousness of Sharif's medical condition".
Haris cited PPP leader Asim Hussain's case, who had been granted bail on similar grounds and was also allowed to go abroad. The chief justice warned that a worsening medical condition was the "best basis" for securing bail if "it's not misused".
In order to secure bail on medical grounds, the chief justice said, Sharif's counsel would have to prove that the former premier's health is deteriorating. Sharif would also have to prove that staying in jail would threaten his life, Justice Khosa said.
According to Sharif's medical reports, Justice Khosa remarked, the former prime minister had been suffering from heart ailments since 2003. The chief justice further observed that despite suffering from these medical conditions for several years, Sharif had "quite an active routine".
He further noted that different people had "several types of medical histories but they survive".
He added that the court had already reviewed Sharif's medical reports submitted earlier and nothing in the them suggested that Sharif was in danger.
"The [medical] history you are telling [the court about] is old," Justice Khosa said. "We want to see if bail can be granted keeping in view these medical conditions."
"Are the hospitals and doctors in Pakistan not eligible for Nawaz Sharif's treatment?" Justice Khosa asked, saying that the court could simply order the former prime minister be treated in a hospital in Pakistan.
However, Haris continued to insist that Sharif would be "stressed" if he remains in jail. He added that it would not be "appropriate" to treat him while he is under stress.
The chief justice noted that Sharif is a convict, and added that even if the court grants him bail for a few weeks, he will have to return to jail, where he will face similar stressful conditions.
Separately, NAB's legal counsel, during his arguments, said that none of Sharif's reports mentioned his ailments and had merely recommended checkups. He insisted that the former prime minister was being "monitored 24 hours a day". He refuted Haris' argument that Sharif is suffering from a life-threatening disease.
Justice Yahya Afridi, who was part of the bench, asked: "If his [Sharif] life is not in danger then why have the medical boards recommended that he goes through an angiography?"
Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, the third member of the bench, said that NAB had shifted Sharif from "one hospital to another".
"You [NAB] should open a hospital," the chief justice said, and asked why every person who was being investigated by NAB faced mental duress.
"NAB's attitude is such that people have started to commit suicide," he said, adding that the top court was "looking into that matter as well".