Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Ahmad Shah has said that there was a "disparity" between the medical reports of ailing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his behaviour while departing the country for treatment abroad.
In a wide-ranging interview on DawnNewsTV show News Eye, the minister said the public would not have raised questions regarding the PML-N supremo's departure to London if he had "left the country like a sick person" and if nothing else, boarded the air ambulance on a wheelchair.
He was responding to a question regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan's recent remarks in which he had cast doubt on Nawaz's medical reports, saying: “After seeing Nawaz board the air ambulance, I wondered if he got healthy with the first glance of the London-bound airplane.”
"Definitely, there was a disparity between the [medical] reports and the behaviour [of Nawaz]," Shah told journalist Meher Abbasi.
Prime Minister Imran had last week said that his government allowed Nawaz to travel to London on humanitarian grounds. He had also said the government allowed him to go abroad on the recommendations of the medical board.
The Punjab government’s official medical board had in its Nov 10 report confirmed the critical condition of the PML-N supremo and recommended that he may be allowed to be shifted abroad to a centre of excellence of his choice. The medical report was received by the Ministry of Interior on Nov 11.
The interior minister said although he was not involved in the matter, the "doubts" currently present would not have been there if he had been asked to investigate the seriousness of Nawaz's illness.
"We are not inventing the wheel or an atom bomb. It is just a question of getting in touch with the people," he said.
Shah said the "problem" regarding the matter of Nawaz leaving the country started because of "the way the case was handled by the Lahore High Court". He noted that it was not common for the court to hear an application on a Saturday, as it did in Nawaz's case.
He said the government had made the permission for Nawaz to go abroad conditional to the submission of indemnity bonds because the case would have set a "precedent" for other ailing convicts.
Asked how the government will react if Nawaz fails to return to the country, the minister said the government will adopt all legal means to bring the former prime minister back to the country in such a scenario.
Shah said although several "conspiracy theories" are swirling regarding how PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz will try to seek permission to join her father in the UK, he would advise against her being granted such an approval.
He also questioned why Maryam had to supervise her father's treatment when his other children are present with him abroad.
Treatment for Zardari
In response to a question regarding ailing former president and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, the interior minister said the government was not hindering his treatment.
"He should be given the same treatment that Mian Nawaz Sharif has got," Shah said, adding that he could also be allowed to go abroad for treatment, if so recommended by doctors, based on Nawaz's precedent.
Was Fazlur Rehman given an 'assurance'?
The minister dismissed rumours that the Chaudhry brothers had given JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman some sort of "assurance" in exchange for the latter calling off his anti-government sit-in.
"The arbitrator lies 90 per cent of the time," he said, adding that it was important to do so to resolve a conflict between two parties.
He alleged that all opposition parties are deceiving each other. "Would the PML-N want that Fazlur Rehman becomes the prime minister instead of Shehbaz Sharif? Over my dead body," he added.
Shah also rejected reports of conditions being created for an "in-house change".
'Wrong to call Musharraf fugitive'
Asked whether he thought it was unfair for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to be declared a "fugitive" while he's ailing, Shah, who had served under Musharraf in the military, responded: "It is so wrong that I cannot even explain."
He recalled Musharraf as "the man who has been with you, the man who has been the chief of army staff, the man who has fought two wars for you [and] the man who is a decorated soldier".
The minister refuted the impression that Musharraf had locked up judges during his tenure, saying he could state on oath that "there was no instruction to be disrespectful to any judge."
When questioned why Musharraf was not returning to Pakistan to face the case against him, Shah said the former military ruler's latest photo circulating on social media showed that "he's more sick than anybody else in this country."
He said in view of Musharraf's critical medical condition, the high treason case against him should be deferred. He added that he would agree to send a government representative to verify Musharraf's illness if the courts order such a step.
Answering a question, Shah said it was unfair to term a person who has "given blood for the country" a traitor.
"There was a vacuum which was created. The country was not moving. The people were eating it up and the army [decided] to come in," he said while talking about past martial laws in the country.
When asked whether corruption was a bigger offence or breaking the Constitution, the minister replied: "Both are equally bad."
'Nobody can disqualify the party'
The interior minister was confident that the ruling PTI would emerge clean from the foreign funding case taken up against it by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
"The chief election commissioner has no right. Nobody can disqualify the party," he said in response to a question, adding that the ECP can send recommendations against a political party to the federal government.