PESHAWAR: The who’s who of corruption suspects spend less time in jail and more at Lady Reading Hospital’s medico-legal ward due to one medical complication or another.
Usually, the health of politicians or government officials accused of corruption starts to deteriorate soon after their bail is rejected by a court.
Once at the government hospital, they are easily able to meet their near and dear ones. Those suffering more than others, or yielding more influence, manage to persuade prison and medical authorities to shift them to the elaborately furnished Bolton Block.
The facility is currently housing former chief executive Peshawar Electric Supply Company Parvez Akhtar Shah who was arrested by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on charges of accumulating assets beyond known sources of income. At that time, Shah argued he is a heart patient and should not be handed over to the FIA team probing the case. However, it was a gastro problem and nothing cardio-related that placed him in Bolton Block’s lap of luxury.
Besides Shah, former minister for mines and mineral development Ziaullah Afridi was also taken to LRH from jail after he complained of a throat infection.
The minister was arrested by the Ehtesab Commission on charges of illegal mining. Earlier this week, his interim bail was rejected by the Peshawar High Court.
Shah has been admitted to the gastro ward, while Afridi’s delicate thorax is being treated at the ENT ward.
“Most inmates don’t stay in prison for even a single night and raise a hue and cry to be shifted to the hospital,” a prison official tells The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity. He states that authorities are aware of the fact that the inmates are feigning illnesses, but cannot refuse these influential prisoners. “Sometimes medics are forced into advising that the prisoner be shifted to a hospital outside the prison.”
When asked about deficiencies at prison hospital, the jail official claims there are none. “The hospital is equipped with facilities and inmates are transferred to other facilities only for major problems,” he added. “Since LRH is the nearest facility, most land up there.”
Even LRH officials share a similar view, saying most of the influential inmates are acting, whereas other prisoners have genuine reason to be at the hospital. Former inspector general Malik Naveed is another notable — if not notorious — figure who stayed at the facility for over a year.
Officials say regardless of the severity of the cases, inmates cannot be denied their right to care at a hospital.
“When someone, whether genuinely or not, claims to be in severe pain, he or she cannot be refused. If the pain is genuine and something happens, the officials concerned will be blamed and will have to face the consequences,” a health official says.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2015.
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