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Nawaz Sharif given bail for six weeks

26 March, 2019

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted former premier Nawaz Sharif bail for six weeks to obtain medical treatment within the country. A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa granted bail to Sharif today on medical grounds against two surety bonds of Rs5 million each.

The short order, read out by the chief justice in Court Room No 1, said that Sharif will have to surrender himself to jail authorities once the bail period is over. If he fails to surrender, he will be arrested.

In case Sharif wishes to apply for bail on medical grounds when he returns to jail after six weeks, he will have to consult the high court, the order said. Khawaja Haris, Sharif's legal counsel, had requested the court for bail for eight weeks.

After the short order was announced, Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz tweeted, praising God.

PML-N leaders, including former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, also welcomed the decision.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had yesterday submitted an appeal opposing Sharif's bail petition, asking that it be rejected.

Sharif is serving a seven-year prison sentence awarded to him by an accountability court in the Al Azizia corruption case. The former premier had filed a bail plea in the IHC on medical grounds but it was turned down last month, as the high court noted that "none of the reports [about Sharif's condition] suggest that continued incarceration of the petitioner, in any way, would be detrimental to his life".

PML-N leaders Pervaiz Malik, Shaista Pervaiz, Khurram Dastagir, Amir Muqam, Sadia Abbasi, Rana Sanaullah and Pervez Rashid and others had arrived in court ahead of the hearing earlier today. Special security measures were taken to ensure "smooth functioning" of the court during the hearing, which is being held in Court Room No 1.

As the hearing began, Sharif's lawyer Haris apprised the court of the former premier's medical reports. The chief justice observed that Haris had submitted an additional document in court, which the lawyer explained was a letter from one Dr Lawrence to Dr Adnan. When the court inquired who Dr Adnan was, Haris replied that he was Sharif's personal physician.

Justice Khosa remarked that the document was correspondence between "'Person A' and 'Person B'" and was not addressed to court. He further questioned the "legal status" of the letter.

"How can we determine this letter's authenticity? This letter has been written by a private individual to another private individual," he said, adding that the bench had read it because it was submitted by Haris. "How can this letter be presented as evidence?"

Sharif's lawyer clarified that he was "not depending upon the letter" in this case.

Haris told the court that the former premier is suffering from heart ailments and had gone through open-heart surgery and therefore, required an angiography which is a "complicated matter".

Haris told the court that one of the veins supplying blood to Sharif's heart was 43 per cent blocked. Additionally, he said, Sharif's blood sugar level and blood pressure needed to be monitored at all times.

"It is said that after a person goes through an open-heart surgery, he becomes 20 years younger," Justice Khosa remarked. He asked if Sharif can be treated in a hospital in Pakistan and said that the court would allow the former premier to receive treatment in whichever hospital he chooses. Haris insisted that his client needed bail as his "health [condition] is serious".

Haris said that Sharif was also suffering from kidney disease which was in the third stage, and would need dialysis if it advanced to the fourth stage.

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

"Should we believe Dr Lawrence's letter as it is? If he had said that [Sharif's] kidney ailment has reached stage four, should we have believed it 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 told the bench that five medical boards had been formed to examine Sharif's medical condition and every one of them had declared that the former premier's kidney ailment was at the third stage.

They had also recommended that he should be admitted to a hospital. Haris said that Sharif had been "diagnosed with angina" and that he had already had two attacks. He insisted that Sharif's condition was "worsening day by day" and urged the court to consider the "seriousness of Sharif's medical condition".

Haris cited PPP leader Asim Hussain's case, who had been granted bail on similar grounds and was also allowed to go abroad. The chief justice warned that worsening medical condition was the "best basis" for securing bail if "it's not misused".

In order to secure bail on medical grounds, the chief justice said, Sharif's counsel will have to prove that the former premier's health is deteriorating. Sharif will also have to prove that staying in jail will threaten his life, Justice Khosa said. According to Sharif's medical reports, Justice Khosa said, the former prime minister has been suffering from heart ailments since 2003.

The chief justice also observed that Sharif has been suffering from these medical conditions for several years but had "quite an active routine". He further said that different people had "several types of medical histories but they survive".

He added that the court had already reviewed Sharif's medical reports that were submitted earlier and nothing in the them suggested that Sharif was in danger.

"The [medical] history you are telling [the court about] is old," Justice Khosa said. "We want to see if bail can be granted keeping in view these medical conditions."

"Are the hospitals and doctors in Pakistan not eligible for Nawaz Sharif's treatment?" Justice Khosa asked and said the court could order that the former prime minister be treated in a hospital in Pakistan. Haris insisted that Sharif will be "stressed" if he remains in jail. He added that it would not be "appropriate" to treat him while he is under stress.

The chief justice noted that Sharif is a convict added that even if the court grants him bail for a few weeks, he will have to return to jail.

NAB's legal counsel, during his arguments, said that none of Sharif's reports mentioned his ailments and had merely recommended checkups. He insisted that the former prime minister was being "monitored 24 hours a day". He refuted Haris' argument that Sharif was suffering from a life-threatening disease.

Justice Yahya Afridi, who was part of the bench, asked: "If his [Sharif] life is not in danger then why have the medical boards recommended that he goes through an angiography?" Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, the third member of the bench, said that NAB had shifting Sharif from "one hospital to another".

"You [NAB] should open a hospital," the chief justice said and asked why every person who was being investigated by NAB faced mental duress.

"NAB's attitude is such that people have started to commit suicide," he said, adding that the top court was "looking into that matter as well".

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