ISLAMABAD: The acc­oun­tability court of Islam­abad on Tuesday rejected an application seeking treatment of former president Asif Ali Zardari by private doctors of his choice instead of physicians of the Islamabad-based government hospital. The same court extended the remand of Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur till Nov 26.

Mr Zardari was not taken from the hospital to the accountability court due to his poor health. The prosecution informed the court that it was not possible to produce the former president due to his health condition.

Accountability Judge Azam Khan resumed proceedings in the Park Lane reference that is an offshoot of the fake accounts case.

Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, counsel for Mr Zardari, presented arguments for providing medical treatment to the incarcerated former president by private doctors and shifting him to a better medical facility.

Mr Zardari has been shifted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) of Islamabad which has been declared a sub-jail.

Mr Khosa contended before the court that Mr Zardari had a medical history and that he had been treated in Karachi for his ailments where his doctors were quite familiar with his condition.

While referring to the case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he said that in this case government as well as the National Accountability Bureau appeared to be willing to lift travel restriction in order to enable him to get the medical treatment by the specialist doctors of his choice from abroad.

However, in the case of Mr Zardari, they were not ready even to allow him to move to a hospital in Karachi, he further said.

According to the counsel, Mr Zardari had neither begged for any favour from the government in the past nor did he intend to seek any relief in the future. But, he added, getting medical treatment by doctors of his choice was related to the right to life which is guaranteed in the constitution.

The NAB’s prosecution on the other hand opposed the application, saying that Mr Zardari might seek required facilities from the government.

The prosecutor said that the former president was thoroughly examined by the medical board constituted by the government and upon the recommendations of the board, he was shifted to Pims and the premises where he was admitted had been declared a sub-jail.

He argued that Mr Zardari was getting the treatment in accordance with the doctors’ advice and he was at liberty to engage any private doctor or medical specialist of his own choice.

The court reserved the order on the application which was announced later on. The court rejected the application of sending Mr Zardari to Karachi but allowed another application of Ms Talpur seeking meeting with her ailing brother.

The accountability judge allowed Ms Talpur to meet her ailing brother in the hospital.

Advocate Farooq H. Naek requested the court for better facilities for Ms Talpur in jail. The prosecution on the other hand recalled that the government had promulgated an ordinance that made it mandatory to keep a NAB accused in ‘C’ Class facility.

Mr Naek, however, said that she was already in Better Class and he was seeking some other facilities for Ms Talpur.

The Park Lane reference has been registered against Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur under different sections of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010.

Mr Zardari has been accused of being involved “in extending loan and its misappropriation by M/s Parthenon Private Limited, M/S Park Lane Estate Private Limited and others”.

Family physicians

The PPP alleged that the medical board was not sharing reports of Mr Zardari with his family and demanded that the family physicians should be included in the medical board.

The former president was shifted to Pims from Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on Oct 22 and admitted in the VIP ward of the hospital’s cardiology department. A number of tests, including ECG and blood tests, were conducted and the patient was declared out of danger.

Mr Khosa while speaking to reporters said that it was unfortunate that Mr Zardari’s medical reports were not being shared with the family.

“We demand that physicians, who have already treated Mr Zardari, should be included in the medical board. As the patient is not recovering there is a possibility that he is suffering from a disease and that is why he could not be produced in the court on Tuesday,” Mr Khosa said.

“One can understand the condition of Mr Zardari as he could not be shifted from the hospital to the court. His sugar level is fluctuating and he has been suffering from severe neck and backbone pain. He has spent 70 days in NAB’s custody but till date even a reference could not be filed against him by the bureau,” he said.

Meanwhile, the former president’s daughter, Aseefa Bhutto-Zurdari, told reporters at Pims that she was still waiting to get permission from the court to include private doctors in the medical board.

She said that a private medical board should be established to provide appropriate treatment to the patient.

“We are really concerned about the health of Mr Zardari and believe that private physicians will be in a better position to comment about the patient, who could not appear in the court due to health issues,” she said.

Pims media coordinator Dr Waseem Khawaja said on Monday that MRI of Mr Zardari’s neck was conducted as he was suffering from severe neck pain.

Mr Zardari was having different complaints such as low backache, weakness and anxiety.

Neurologist Professor Amir, Medical Specialist Dr Shajee and Cardiologist Prof Naeem have checked Mr Zardari.

Later an urologist was also included in the medical board as the patient was having inflammation of the prostate gland. His platelets were also dropped to 120,000, which were low, but it was not unusual as patient was having a number of medicines.

Last week a Holter Monitor was also attached to Mr Zardari. Holter Monitor is a battery-operated portable device that measures and records heart’s activity (ECG) continuously for 24 to 48 hours or longer depending on the type of monitoring used.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2019