ISLAMABAD: PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari leaving PIMS after the Islamabad High Court granted bail to him on medical grounds.—Online
ISLAMABAD: PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari leaving PIMS after the Islamabad High Court granted bail to him on medical grounds.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Dozens of jubilant workers and a number of senior leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), including party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and his sister Aseefa, on Thursday received former president Asif Ali Zardari outside the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) after his release on the orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The release came a day after he was granted bail by the IHC in the Park Lane and fake bank accounts cases on medical grounds.

Soon after his release, Mr Zardari was driven to his F-8 residence — known as Zardari House — the place from where he was arrested by a team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a dramatic way six months ago.

The PPP workers raised full-throated slogans against the government as soon as a frail-looking Mr Zardari came out on a wheelchair from the hospital which had been declared a sub-jail and where he had been undergoing medical treatment for nearly a month. The party workers showered rose petals on his vehicle.

Talking to reporters outside the hospital, PPP information secretary and MNA Dr Nafisa Shah said it was a “good day for the country and democracy”.

Set to leave for Karachi today where he will undergo medical tests

Dr Shah expressed the hope that like Mr Zardari, other PPP leaders who were under NAB’s custody would soon also get relief. She said the court had granted bail to Mr Zardari on medical grounds and merit after the government-appointed doctors recommended his treatment at a specialist care facility.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting of the core committee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the evening, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan expressed her concerns over Mr Zardari’s health and then posed a question as to why those who got bail on medical grounds stayed at their homes, instead of going to hospitals.

“Our prayers are with the man [Mr Zardari] who was released today and came out [from the hospital] making a victory sign, but the nation and the courts will have to look into the matter of how an ailing person can recover from illness on bed at home. It is a beautiful coincidence that those who are released on bail from jail on medical grounds go straight to their homes and not hospitals to get better medical treatment,” she said, adding that the core committee of the PTI meeting expressed astonishment about how an ailing man was cured in his home instead of hospital.

PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that Mr Zardari would leave for Karachi today [Friday] where he would undergo some medical tests. He said that Mr Bhutto-Zardari had already departed for Karachi to receive his ailing father in the capital of the party-ruled province.

Responding to a question, Mr Babar refuted the impression that is there in some circles that Mr Zardari had been released as per some understanding or due to some deal.

“Asif Zardari has not been convicted and he is only a co-accused in this case, for which he was detained for 68 days in physical custody and remaining some 100 days in judicial custody. The doctors’ report draws a very bleak picture of Mr Zardari’s health condition. Moreover, the recent bail granted to [former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds – if all this was put together it would have attracted highly adverse public gaze on this situation,” Mr Babar said, stressing that the ex-president had got the bail on merit.

Mr Zardari was arrested by NAB on June 10 after the cancellation of his pre-arrest bail by the IHC in the fake bank accounts case, prompting a strong reaction from the opposition and sporadic protests by PPP workers in various parts of the country, mostly in the Sindh province.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari had termed his father’s arrest an act of “political victimisation” by the PTI government, and declared it a negation of Article 10-A of the Constitution that guarantees the right of fair trial to every citizen, but appealed to party workers to remain calm and wait for party directives.

The IHC bench had also cancelled the bail of Mr Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur, a co-accused in the case, and she was also arrested after few days.

The case against Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur was originally registered with the Federal Investigation Agency and was filed before a banking court in Karachi. Later, NAB got this case transferred to its Rawalpindi directorate, a decision which was criticised by the PPP.

Mohammad Asghar in Rawalpindi also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2019