LAHORE: The Punjab cabinet on Tuesday refused to extend bail of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as it found no “legal, moral or medical ground” necessitating an extension, says provincial Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Raja Basharat.

Addressing a post-meeting press conference, he said that after the committee formed by the chief minister for the purpose recommended against an extension in the bail, the cabinet unanimously approved the decision.

Mr Basharat was flanked by Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid and Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan at the press conference.

The Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif, reacted to the step sharply, accusing the government of “stooping too low for victimising the opposition”.

He said the Punjab government was telling lies when it said that medical reports of the former premier were fake or not fresh. “Everyone knows that Mian Nawaz Sharif did not want to go abroad for treatment. He was pressed hard by the family and PML-N workers to agree to travel abroad. Now the PTI is trying to make his treatment controversial with such tactics,” he told media in London.

Shahbaz accuses PTI govt of victimising opposition

The Lahore High Court had granted Nawaz Sharif bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case in which he was a suspect. Later, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) accepted his bail in the Al Azizia case in which he was serving a jail term, clearing his way to travel abroad. The IHC had, however, asked him (Nawaz Sharif) to first approach the Punjab government if he needed more time (after eight weeks) to complete his treatment.

The IHC granted eight-week bail to the former premier (Nawaz Sharif) on Oct 29, 2019 — a period of time that expired on Dec 25. The former premier applied for the extension in his bail on Dec 23 along with some medical reports. The Punjab government formed a four-member committee to look into the merits of the application. It rejected the medical reports submitted with the applications and asked for more specific and latest evidence.

Lingering confusion

At the Lahore press briefing, Mr Basharat said the committee waited for eight weeks and sent many reminders to Mr Sharif but nothing specific was shared with it. However, this correspondence automatically extended the bail by another eight weeks before the Punjab government decided to end the lingering confusion.

“The former premier has neither been admitted to any hospital nor have any (medical) interventions been made to give credence to his application for the extension. Of late, the local PML-N leaders have been claiming the former prime minister would undergo cardiac procedure on Feb 24. But when asked, his personal physician (Dr Adnan) not only denied the claim, but also refused to give any timeline for such a procedure. All this left the Punjab government with no option but to refuse the extension,” Mr Basharat told media personnel who gathered for the briefing on a very short notice.

Substantiating the legal grounds with medical justifications, Dr Yasmin Rashid said that the committee to look into the possibilities of the extension of bail, of which she was also a member, wanted “official results of test or any other recommendations for that matter duly stamped by the hospital concerned. These never came. As far as medical realities of the former prime minister are concerned, the Punjab government is standing right at the point where it was when he left (November 19) the country; nothing has been added to what the Punjab government — granter of the bail — already knew. Instead of furnishing fresh reports, Dr Adnan told the committee to treat old (rejected by the committee) reports as final ones and take the decision. In such a situation, the only option the Punjab government had was to reject the extension”.

Mr Basharat said the Punjab government would now inform the federal government about its decision in writing and wait for the federal government to determine its course of action. It was the IHC that allowed Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad and the federal government struck his name off the exit control list — both matters fell within the federal jurisdiction, he explained.

Speaking to a private television channel, PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah said that the matter would definitely be referred back to the court. “It was the court that granted bail and allowed Nawaz Sharif to go for treatment and told him to return to it if the Punjab government refuses the extension in bail. It is time to get back to the court (for relief),” he said.

The matter of Nawas Sharif’s bail came under renewed focus when one of his pictures, sitting in a London restaurant with family members, went viral early January and the PTI government started pursuing the matter with renewed vigour.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020