Nawaz released from jail after SC orders six-week reprieve


SC allows former PM to seek medical treatment anywhere in Pakistan during bail period, bars him from going abroad

–Bench criticises NAB’s attitude, says it is looking into Brig (r) Asad Munir’s suspected suicide as well

ISLAMABAD: What comes as a brief respite, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been released from Kot Lakhpat Jail around midnight as earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court (SC) allowed six-week bail on the grounds of his deteriorating health.

Nawaz, who is facing a 7-year jail sentence in Al-Azizia corruption case, had moved the top court against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) decision in February for refusing him bail on the same grounds.

During Tuesday’s hearing, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa allowed the former prime minister bail on condition that he cannot go abroad for treatment.

Reacting to the SC verdict, Maryam Nawaz thanked God for His kindness in a short tweet.

In a tweet, the PML-N leader said, “Insha’Allah, MNS will be home soon. Want to take this opportunity to thank Allah & then every PMLN supporter. You guys were instrumental in keeping my spirits & hopes high. I have no words to express my gratitude. May Allah bless you all profusely. Ameen.”

In another tweet, she said, “Heres to all PMLN supporters on social media! A heartfelt ‘THANK YOU’ for being there for me in my most trying times, for never letting me down & for showing me the way. You laughed & cried with me. Want you to know how much I appreciate that & how much each of you means to me.”

The former PM was also asked to deposit two surety bonds of Rs5 million to the additional registrar.

During the stipulated time, the former premier will be allowed to get treatment from a doctor of his own choice and surrender in the immediate aftermath of the expiration of the free period. If his condition still persists at the end of his bail, he can approach the relevant high court for an extension in the bail period, says the judgement.

The bench, during the hearing, asked defence counsel Khawaja Haris if he had filed any additional documents. To which, Haris replied affirmative, saying he had submitted a letter by Dr Lawrence to Dr Adnan to corroborate his stance.

When the SC inquired who Dr Adnan was, Haris replied that he was Sharif’s personal physician.

About the letter, Justice Khosa remarked that the document was a correspondence between “‘Person A’ and ‘Person B'” and not addressed to the court. He, therefore, questioned the legal status of the letter.

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

The defence counsel clarified that his case was “not depending upon the letter”.

Nawaz’s health has deteriorated in prison, said Haris.

“Five medical boards assessed his condition, and every board recommended that he be transferred to a hospital, he needs an angiography,” said Haris, adding it was a complicated matter.

Haris then told the court that one of the veins supplying blood to Nawaz’s heart was 43 per cent blocked. “Additionally Sharif’s blood sugar level and blood pressure need to be monitored at all times,”  he claimed.

“Can Nawaz be treated in a hospital in Pakistan,” asked the judge, offering treatment of the former premier to a hospital of his choice.  However, Haris insisted that his client needed bail as “health [condition] is serious”.

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

“Should court believe in Dr Lawrence’s letter as it is being his only proof,” the judge asked.

“If he [Lawrence] had said that [Nawaz’s] kidney ailment has reached stage four, should we have believed that as well?” the chief justice asked, adding: “You are building your case on medical grounds, and all we have [as evidence] is Dr Lawrence’s letter.”

“Can we take a letter as a basis [of proof] in a criminal case?” Justice Khosa asked.

Haris replied that his case was not solely dependent upon a letter. He recalled all five medical boards formed to examine the health of the former prime minister in jail had declared that his kidney ailment was at the third stage.

The boards had also recommended that he should be admitted to a hospital, Haris said, adding that his client had been “diagnosed with angina” and that he had “already had two attacks”.

He insisted that Nawaz’s condition was “worsening day by day” and urged the court to consider the “seriousness of his medical condition”.

Haris also gave the example of PPP leader Dr Asim Hussain, who had been granted bail on similar grounds and was allowed to go abroad.

The chief justice warned that a worsening medical condition was the “best basis” for securing bail if “it’s not misused”. However, he said the defence counsel would need to prove that his client’s health worsening and time in jail would be a threat to his life.

Commenting on medical reports submitted by the defence in the case, the court said the ex-prime minister has been suffering from heart ailments since 2003, but despite all these sicknesses, he had led “quite an active routine” and nothing the reports suggested that his life was in danger.

But these health issues are old, the court said, adding it wanted to give bail on the former prime minister’s present medical condition.

Justice Khosa also questioned defence’s insistence on going abroad for treatment.

“Are the hospitals and doctors in Pakistan not eligible for Nawaz Sharif’s treatment?” Justice Khosa asked, saying that the court could simply order the former prime minister be treated in a hospital in Pakistan.

But the defence counsel said if Nawaz stayed in jail if it would be stressful, thus bad for his current state of health. The chief justice noted that Nawaz was a convict and he would have to eventually return to the stressful conditions in prison after the expiry of the bail period.

The NAB counsel contested this version. He said Nawaz was not facing any serious ailment, adding his medical reports had merely recommended checkups. He insisted that the former prime minister was being “monitored 24 hours a day”.

Justice Yahya Afridi questioned NAB’s argument, saying, “If his [Nawaz] life is not in danger then why have the medical boards recommended that he goes through an angiography?”

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah also criticised NAB’s callous attitude, saying it had shifted Nawaz from “one hospital to another”.

“NAB should open a hospital,” quipped chief justice, wondering why every person probe by NAB faced mental duress.

He also brought up former military officer Asad Munir’s suicide, saying people have started to commit suicide of its attitude and warned that the court “looking into that matter as well”.

NAB on Monday filed a plea in the apex court challenging the Nawaz’s plea after he moved the top court for the early release. NAB’s actions come after a notice was served to it by the apex court in the last hearing in which it had been asked to make its stance known.

According to the petition submitted by NAB, Nawaz’s petition does not mention that he is suffering from a serious ailment.

The former premier spent around 10 days in Jinnah Hospital, Lahore last month. He refused to get further treatment at the hospital after the IHC rejected his petition seeking suspension of his sentence on medical grounds.

Nawaz is undergoing seven-year imprisonment in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case. The government claims that he is not ready to be treated in any hospital in the country as he wants to go to London for treatment. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government of indulging in politics over Sharif’s health.