Supreme Court grants bail to Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds

ISLAMABAD, (DNA) –  The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to former premier Nawaz Sharif in a petition filed on medical grounds in Al-Azizia corruption reference. Sharif’s defence counsel Khawaja Haris pleaded with the court to grant his client bail as he would need eight weeks for medical treatment.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa – also comprising of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi – presided over hearing of Sharif’s appeal against a Feb 25 Islamabad High Court (IHC) decision to reject his bail on medical grounds.

Dr Lawrence’s letter, written to Sharif’s personal physical Dr Adnan, had been submitted in court today. The letter, submitted by Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris, included Nawaz’s medical history from 2003-2019.

However, Justice Khosa remarked that the letter has been written for a person named ‘Adnan’ and not the court.

“What is the legal value of this letter?” he asked, adding that the letter was a private correspondence between “Person A and Person B”.

“The previous petition filed on merit basis was withdrawn,” he went on to say.

To which, Sharif’s defence Haris argued that the matter of his client’s health came after the previous petition was filed. Five medical boards had been formed to examine his health, and all boards recommended shifting him to a hospital for treatment, he said.

“On Jan 30, the PIC board recommended formation of a bigger medical board that suggested admitting Sharif to a hospital with availability of treatment of multiple diseases,” he further told the court.

“How can this letter be presented as evidence?” the CJP asked.

Sharif’s lawyer clarified that he was “not depending upon the letter” in this case.

Justice Khosa asked if the petitioner had any other “proof” of Nawaz’s deteriorating health apart from Dr Lawrence’s letter.

“You are building your case on medical grounds and all we have is Dr Lawrence’s letter. Should we believe Dr Lawrence’s letter as it is?” the CJP questioned.

The CJP also asked Haris to explain the difference between Sharif’s previous and the current medical condition. “Reports claim that he is suffering from heart ailment. We [the court] want to know whether his life is in danger,” he said.

To which, Haris told the court that seven stents were placed in the arteries of Sharif’s heart and angina could further deteriorate condition of his heart disease.

“You have to prove that his condition is deteriorating in the jail, and his life is in danger,” the CJP asked.

Haris told the court that the matter of Sharif’s angiography is complex.

Justice Khosa said the court could order his treatment at any hospital in Pakistan. However, his defence asserted that Sharif would be under mental stress and his treatment could not be provided effectively under such condition.

To which, the court asked if mental stress could be eradicated within two weeks. “What would happen if the appeal’s decision is made after two weeks?”

Contrarily, Haris told the court that the matter could take much longer time than two weeks, and the decision made in a hurry would be in opposition to norms of justice.

“Bail is granted while the appeal is pending decision,” the CJP responded, adding that whether Sharif would be satisfied if mental stress is removed. “In the previous hearing, you told the court that Sharif trusts his personal doctor.

Haris recalled that Dr Asim Hussain was granted a bail on medical grounds.

Earlier, a circular was issued regarding security measures at the Supreme Court.

Due to limited seating in Court no. 1, special passes were provided to regulate the entry in court house and only lawyers, petitioners, respondents and journalists were allowed to enter the courtroom.

Earlier on March 25, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), in response to a notice, submitted a reply in the apex court opposing the bail petition.

As per the accountability bureau’s reply submitted today, Sharif’s bail petition contains no indication of him suffering from a fatal illness. NAB has stated that Sharif does not suffer from a life-threatening illness and no medical board has recommended that he undergo surgery.

It also argued that Sharif’s case does not fall in the category of a ‘hardship’ case.

Sharif has been provided all medical facilities in Pakistan, it said and added he wanted to make out the case citing threats to life so that he could travel abroad.

The NAB asserted that if Sharif were granted bail, the former premier would dissociate himself from the jurisdiction of the court. It said that the IHC had reviewed all these aspects earlier and subsequently rejected Sharif’s bail request.

Additionally, NAB has contended that Sharif’s doctor, Dr Lawrence’s report looks like it is “unverified and fictitious”.

Dr Lawrence’s letter, written to Sharif’s personal physical Dr Adnan, had been submitted in court today. The letter, submitted by Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris, included Nawaz’s medical history from 2003-2019.

Moreover, Punjab interior ministry forwarded the medical report of Sharif to the prime minister, which states his blood sugar as ‘normal’ with a recommendation that he should consume more water. The report stated that he was provided all medical facilities.

The PML-N supreme leader was sentenced to seven years in prison and was fined Rs1.5 billion and $25 million in the Al-Azizia corruption reference by an accountability court on December 24, 2018. However, he was acquitted in another reference related to Flagship Investments.

Besides, he was also disqualified from holding any public office for the period of 10 years. The disqualification will go into effect following his release from jail after serving the seven-year sentence.

The government claims that he is unwilling to avail treatment at any hospital in Pakistan and wants to go to London for treatment. The PML-N has accused the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government of indulging in politics over Sharif’s health.

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