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May 4, 2019

Nawaz destined for jail, not London

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May 4, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday rejected a review petition filed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seeking an extension in his six-week bail on medical grounds in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference. Rejection of the appeal means that Nawaz will go to jail instead of London upon expiry of his bail on May 7.

The three-time prime minister, in his plea filed on April 30, had requested the apex court to extend his bail until the verdict on his earlier review petition concerning the March 26 order seeking permission to leave the country is announced. A three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi heard the case and in its short order also rejected the plea which also sought permission for treatment in the United Kingdom.

During the course of proceedings, the Chief Justice (CJ) remarked that the court had given six weeks to Nawaz Sharif to get angiography done which could take an hour but the entire bail period was instead spent on conducting tests to ascertain the state of the formerprime minister’s health. He observed that the court gave Nawaz Sharif six weeks’ bail as five medical boards and 31 doctors had recommended angiography. He remarked that the petitioner's conduct showed that there is no imminent threat to his life and his plea is based on mere assumptions. The CJ also observed that the petitioner's counsel had exceeded the scope of the initial petition with the latest plea for permission to go abroad. Nawaz's counsel Khawaja Haris said according to the court's written order, his client could not apply for bail before surrendering himself to the authorities. The court also observed that Nawaz’s health has worsened during his bail period.

That aspect of the order was in contradiction with the verbal orders issued in the case, he added. Upon this, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah remarked that anything said by the judges before signing the verdict was called an observation and not a ruling. Khawaja Haris pleaded the court to extend his client's bail for another eight weeks. He argued that the health condition of his client was deteriorating which required an angiography as per his medical reports. Upon this, the chief justice remarked that an angiography needed an hour, whereas the court had granted Nawaz six weeks. Khawaja Haris said the blockage in Nawaz Sharif's carotid artery had increased by 50 percent, which was an alarming sign. He said a cardiac MRI was used all over the world as an alternative for angiography but the process was not offered anywhere in the country. The chief justice observed that the doctors' report quoted in the court had said nothing in that regard.

The CJ observed that the SC could not review its order on the basis of new medical reports regarding Nawaz’s health. Anyone, who applied for bail on medical grounds, claimed that his or her life was in danger, he added. He observed that the review would become an unending process if that route was taken. Regarding Nawaz’s stress levels, the CJ noted that it was natural for every prisoner to be under stress while in jail. He also referred to a case wherein the SC had cancelled a convict’s interim bail on the grounds that he had failed to undergo the operation that he purportedly required. On the medical opinion shared by foreign doctors, the SC bench noted that they had just offered their services for treatment through letters, which were not sufficient for the court to accept their opinion.

Justice Yahya Afridi remarked that matters must be dealt in accordance with the law and relief could not be given on the opinion of individual doctors. The court could only rely on opinions of the medical boards, he added. Subsequently, the court dismissed the objections and later denied the plea through a short order.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Faisal Javed termed that Nawaz Sharif’s plea seeking extension in bail is nothing more than a visa application by him. Reacting to the rejection of Nawaz Sharif’s bail extension plea, he said in a tweet, “Nawaz Sharif's appeal in Supreme Court was nothing but clearly a visa application. All he wanted to do was run away from the country.” He added that it has a historical background to it. He tweeted, “Great decision by the top court as there cannot be two separate laws for the powerful and the weak. It’s all curtains to any NRO.”

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