SOME official responses to the illness and treatment of Mian Nawaz Sharif can easily earn the PTI setup pride of place among the most blundering governments.

The news about the dangerous fall in the blood platelet levels of the thrice-former prime minister was received with a lot of concern generally, except by those who decided to use it as an opportunity to make personal comments about the patient. There was the usual reference to his eating habits and the privileges certain prisoners enjoyed whereas the rest were left to suffer in their cells. Corruption and conviction were also mentioned as a volley of taunts was heaped on an unwell Mr Sharif whose condition required urgent diagnosis and treatment.

The worst possible attitude on show was reserved for prime ministerial adviser Firdous Ashiq Awan, who herself holds a medical degree. True to form, just as the bulletins of Mr Sharif’s health reported the dangerous drop in his platelets, she made a crude attempt at sarcasm, perhaps not realising that her government was courting a potential disaster by being so dismissive about the former prime minister’s illness and casual about his treatment.

In fact, it took the entire government a long time and a few repeats of Mr Sharif’s blood tests to understand the kind of mess it had created for itself through its arrogance and lack of sympathy. It is all very well to talk about equality and privileges but this was not the occasion for it.

It is said that it was on the orders of the top leadership that the message was conveyed that Mr Sharif was to be provided with the best possible care. Mr Sharif’s detained daughter Maryam Nawaz, whose earlier attempt to meet her father in hospital was frustrated, was finally allowed to pay him a visit.

The question regarding his ‘mystery’ illness was cleared when he was diagnosed as suffering from an auto-immune condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura which is said to be a treatable condition; the former prime minister was expected to show an improvement over the next few days.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has finally persuaded himself to send a get-well-soon message to Mr Sharif. However, the manner in which his medical condition was used to settle scores by some of Mr Sharif’s opponents has left a gaping wound which may continue to cause pain and anguish for a long time to come.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2019

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