ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday rejected former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s plea seeking bail on medical grounds in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani announced the decision after hearing the arguments of Sharif’s counsel and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor.
Sharif’s lawyer, Khawaja Haris, informed the court about the three-time prime minister’s health condition. He submitted medical reports detailing Nawaz’s cardiovascular complications and said his best possible treatment was only available abroad.
The court was told there was a 60% risk to Sharif’s life and the former premier was susceptible to a heart attack because of blocked arteries.
Haris said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader was in immediate need of angioplasty and that the stents his doctors wanted to implant were not available in Pakistan.
He also cited the cases of former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf and former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain, both of whom were given court permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.
The judges questioned as to why it was necessary for Nawaz to undergo treatment abroad and noted that there were many qualified doctors in the country who could treat the former premier.
Haris told the court that 18 doctors had recommended that his client be treated outside the country. He added that a doctor had diagnosed Sharif with 13 ailments. “My client will turn 70 in December this year and suffers from life-threatening diseases,” he added.
Justice Kiyani observed that apparently the patient wanted to be treated in Pakistan, but doctors were reluctant to take the responsibility.
Justice Farooq asked Sharif’s lawyer as to whether or not a suspect with an untreatable disease could be granted bail on medical grounds. Haris maintained that as per the fundamental rights in the constitution, a suspect with an incurable disease could be set free.
“A suspect cannot be held in prison if he has cancer. Even a death-row prisoner who develops a terminal illness deserves medical treatment.”
The NAB prosecutor, Jahanzeb Bharwana, opposed the request and urged the court to dismiss the plea.
He argued that Sharif was granted a six-week bail for medical treatment during which he could have himself treated wherever he wished.
“The six-week bail was not meant for tests alone but also medical treatment,” he added.
Bharwana told the court that Sharif in his review petition filed with the Supreme Court had requested permission to fly abroad for medical treatment. However, the apex court had turned down his petition. The plea filed with the top court also underwent a similar hearing and observation of medical reports as well as review appeals.
As such, he added, Sharif’s plea requesting bail on medical grounds was not admissible for hearing. Justice Farooq inquired as to whether or not bail on medical grounds could be granted for two to four weeks. The NAB prosecutor responded that Sharif was receiving appropriate medical treatment in jail.
The court took NAB’s objections into consideration and ruled against Sharif, stating that the former prime minister could not be granted bail on medical grounds.
The former premier, who has been serving a seven-year prison term at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail since December 24, 2018, was granted a six-week bail on March 26 to receive medical treatment.
However, Sharif filed a civil review petition against the order on April 27 which was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
The petition requested the court to allow Sharif to receive medical treatment abroad, claiming that the former premier was suffering from acute anxiety and depression that could lead to “sudden death”.
It stated that the medical professionals seeing the former premier in Pakistan recommended that he should be treated by his regular practitioners in the UK. It also said that there was a difference between the apex court’s March 26 oral order and the written order.
However, a three-judge special bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi, dismissed the petition after an 86-minute-long hearing.
In a statement to the media after the ruling was announced, PML-N leader Marriyum Aurangzeb said the party would deliberate over its legal options after the IHC released its detailed written order.
“They had to jail Nawaz Sharif to bring in a fake government,” said the PML-N spokesperson, adding that the party was determined to face any and all oppression from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
She lamented the treatment of a three-time former prime minister and said it was shameful that PML-N leaders, and even Sharif’s elderly mother, were not being allowed to meet him in prison.