Ailing Nawaz gets bail in sugar mills case

October 26, 2019

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PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, accompanied by party leader Khawaja Asif, speaks about the health of his brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif.—AP
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, accompanied by party leader Khawaja Asif, speaks about the health of his brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif.—AP

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was granted post-arrest bail on medical grounds by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case on Friday, but the same request in Al-Azizia reference would be taken up by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday.

The LHC granted bail to the Pakistan Muslim League-N’s incarcerated leader after the head of a special medical board treating him at the Services Hospital termed his health condition critical.

“Health of Nawaz Sharif is critical and rapid decrease in his platelets is making it serious,” Prof Dr Mahmood Ayaz told a division bench seized with bail petitions of Mr Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.

The LHC bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem held proceedings on the petitions from 9am to 3pm — with four short breaks.

PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and other leaders were in the crowded courtroom for the final phase of hearing.

At the outset, Advocate General for Punjab Ahmad Jamal Sukhera informed the bench that Nawaz had been provided treatment as per international protocols. He said doctors foresaw improvement in his condition over the next two or three days, adding travel would not be advisable during this period.

National Accountability Bureau’s special prosecutor Faisal Bokhari told the bench that NAB would present its opinion after viewing doctors’ report.

When the bench resumed hearing after a few minutes, Services Institute of Medical Sciences’ (SIMS) Principal Dr Ayaz informed it that during the diagnosing process all viral diseases, including dengue, had been ruled out as the cause for the decrease in platelets.

“What is the present condition of Mr Sharif?” Justice Najafi asked.

Hospital principal terms ex-PM’s condition critical; Minister Yasmin says Nawaz expressed satisfaction over treatment; bail plea in Al-Azizia case deferred

Dr Ayaz replied: “He is critical as something is destroying his platelets very very rapidly.”

He said medicines that Mr Sharif needed regularly for his past diseases were stopped due to thin blood and reduced platelets.

The bench rose and reassembled at 12.30pm when Dr Ayaz reappeared with a detailed report. This time another member of the board, Dr Kamran Cheema, also joined him.

Dr Ayaz said Mr Sharif’s disease had not been diagnosed yet, but efforts were under way. He said Mr Sharif could travel if his platelet count crossed 50,000.

“What do you say now? Are you going to oppose the bail petition?” Justice Najafi asked the NAB prosecutor.

Faisal Bokhari said the bail was not necessary as long as the petitioner was provided with appropriate treatment.

“The report is before you now,” the judge told him.

Then the prosecutor said if doctors maintained that treatment was not available in the country bail could be granted in light of the Supreme Court’s guidelines.

Mr Sharif’s lawyer Khwaja Adnan Ahmad said the report clearly termed the petitioner’s condition critical. Citing SC’s judgements, he said even a condemned prisoner was entitled to bail for bad health.

Justice Najafi observed that the bench would either rely on the report completely or not.

Ashtar Ausaf, also representing the petitioner, argued that it would be a violation of fundamental rights if the former premier was denied bail.

The bench once again rose and reassembled at 3pm, with Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq A. Khan confirming that both Mr Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were on the Exit Control List.

Advocate General Sukhera also told the bench that the government had not so far received any application from Ms Nawaz for permission to stay with her father.

Seeking bail for Ms Nawaz on humanitarian grounds, Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar said the petitioner was the only child living around Mr Sharif and she had a right to look after her father.

The NAB prosecutor opposed the bail to Ms Nawaz on compassionate grounds.

The bench directed the prosecutor to submit comments by Oct 28 on Ms Nawaz’s petition.

The court order on Mr Sharif’s petition stated: “We are, therefore, confident that the ailment of the petitioner cannot be permanently treated in jail since he is suffering from multiple diseases that too, chronic/acute. The petitioner is genuinely required to be treated outside hospital on medical grounds, under his fundamental right guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law which must not be denied to him.

“Obviously, the purpose of bail on medical ground is to ensure that an under-trial prisoner was allowed to avail medical treatment and, or, surgical intervention, if need be, in hospital of his choice in the country or outside the country to ensure stoppage of his further deterioration of health and not to set him at liberty till conclusion of the trial.”

The bench then allowed the bail to Mr Sharif subject to bail bonds in sum of Rs10 million with two sureties each in the like amount.

‘Nawaz responding to treatment’

Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said Nawaz Sharif was now responding to the treatment. “I visited Nawaz Sharif at the Services Hospital and asked him about the treatment. He expressed his satisfaction,” she told a presser in Lahore. She said the government was sharing all his reports with his personal physician.

“When doctors transfused platelets into Mr Sharif, they were destroyed, reflecting constant fluctuation in the platelet count. Now, he is responding to the treatment,” she said, adding that his latest platelet count was 22,000, showing he was responding to the treatment.

A six-member medical board, headed by Services Hospital Principal Mahmood Ayaz, on Thursday diagnosed the reason for Mr Sharif’s declining health. “It is acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a bleeding disorder, in which the immune system destroys platelets,” a board member said, adding doctors were hopeful that his condition would improve in a few days.

About ‘forcibly’ sending Maryam Nawaz back to jail against the advice of doctors, Dr Rashid said all her (Maryam) tests were normal and she was discharged in the morning on Thursday. In reply to a question about allowing Ms Maryam to stay with her father, she said: “PM Khan wants (Nawaz’s) daughter to be with her father to take care of him... under the ambit of law.”

IHC defers decision

Besides, the Islamabad High Court deferred till Tuesday its decision on a petition seeking release of Mr Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference and sought input from his personal physician.

An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani resumed hearing on the petition filed by Shahbaz Sharif seeking suspension of sentence awarded to Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference and his subsequent release on bail.

An accountability court had convicted Mr Sharif in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference and awarded him seven-year imprisonment.

Services Hospital’s Medical Superintendent Saleem Shahzad Cheema submitted to the IHC bench a report by the six-member medical board stating that the condition of Mr Sharif is “critical and serious”. He said Mr Sharif was a chronic cardiac patient and suffering from multiple diseases.

Advocate Khawaja Haris, the lead counsel for Mr Sharif, told the court that his client was suffering from a life-threatening disease and he had a fundamental right to life. Despite the fact that he was getting treatment at the hospital, it should be up to the patient to get medical treatment from the doctors of his choice, he said.

The court asked the Services Hospital MS to submit a comprehensive report by Tuesday.

Justice Kayani instructed the doctors to categorically state in the report that Mr Sharif is in critical condition and if he is kept in the hospital, it will be life threatening for him. He remarked that earlier the IHC had dismissed Mr Sharif’s bail plea twice on medical grounds.

The bench asked Barrister Munawar Duggal, the counsel for Mr Sharif, to hand over a copy of the petition to NAB.

Zulqernain Tahir from Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2019