Relief for Sharif

The judgment has, however, fails to put an end to the war of words between the government and the opposition

Editorial March 27, 2019

The Supreme Court has decided that Nawaz Sharif cannot go abroad for medical treatment. The court has, however, granted the former prime minister a six-week break from his jail sentence to undergo medical treatment within Pakistan from the doctors of his choice — clearly ordering that he is not allowed to leave the country and that he will have to surrender himself to jail authorities after six weeks or else he would be arrested. The order issued by a three-member bench of the top court, headed by the Chief Justice himself, also says that if the three-time prime minister feels the need to apply for further relief on medical grounds after the lapse of the six-week break, he can approach the relevant high court.

The apex court, during the proceedings of the case, appeared unconvinced that there was anything dangerous about Sharif’s medical condition. The only piece of document presented to the court as a proof of Sharif’s ‘deteriorating health condition’ was a correspondence between two foreign doctors — one of them being Sharif’s personal physician. But it failed to convince the learned court which questioned the authenticity, and thereby the legal status, of the correspondence between two ‘private individuals’. When Sharif’s counsel cited reports from five medical boards that had been constituted by the government to examine his client’s medical condition, the court remarked that nothing in the reports suggested that Sharif’s life was in danger.

The top court, however, did allow a six-week suspension in the jail term to the incarcerated former prime minister, understandably in view of his medical history that features him having undergone heart surgeries in the recent past, as well as health being a sensitive matter. The judgment serves well to acknowledge the right to medical treatment being a human right, alongside avoiding the apprehensions of the bail being misused to flee the country.

The judgment has, however, failed to put an end to the war of words between leaders representing the government and the opposition — something that deliberately politicised a purely legal issue. Even though both sides have welcomed the court’s word, political point-scoring on the issue still continues.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2019.

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