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December 11, 2019

Timeline for Nawaz’s foreign treatment unspecified


December 11, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Seriously ill former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyers are preparing to approach the Lahore High Court (LHC) to seek extension of the previously granted four-week bail for medical treatment abroad.

“We will submit the latest medical reports and top doctors’ findings in the LHC to justify our request for extension of bail,” a senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, who, as part of a party delegation that visited London, told The News.

The earlier bail expires on Dec 16 as a two-judge LHC bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem had granted it on Nov 16. Three days later, Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by his brother and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, and personal physician Dr Adnan Khan flew into Britain by an air ambulance.

Even five days before the end of the initial bail, Nawaz Sharif’s treatment for his multiple health problems has not yet started although some tests have been conducted in London. His family says he is constantly being administered steroids and the cause of massive drop of platelets is still to be diagnosed.

The LHC order said that the bail duration could be extended based on medical reports. It stated that Nawaz Sharif is granted one-time permission to travel abroad as interim arrangement for four weeks and will return when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to travel back to Pakistan.

Thus, the ex-premier’s return is conditioned to a certification by the doctors and no timeline has been specified in the LHC order. Shahbaz Sharif had deposited a sworn statement with the LHC, which said that he undertakes to ensure Nawaz Sharif’s return within four weeks or as and when certified by doctors that he has regained his health and is fit to fly back home.

"I further undertake to provide/send the periodical medical report of the doctor duly notarized by the [Pakistan] embassy to the registrar of this court. I also undertake that if at any stage, the federal government has credible information that Nawaz Sharif is living abroad despite his fitness to travel, a representative from Pakistan's High Commission would have a right to meet with his physician(s) to verify or confirm about his health,” the document said.

Nawaz Sharif had also undertaken to abide by what his brother committed and cited his track record when he had come back to Pakistan, leaving his ailing wife in a London hospital, following his conviction by an accountability court.

Meanwhile, the eight-week bail given to Nawaz Sharif by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for medical treatment expires on Dec 29. The IHC had said that the former prime minister can approach the Punjab government for extension of his release under the Pakistan Prison Rules (PPR) and there is no need to come to the High Court on its expiration. The IHC ruled that he can knock at the doors of court of law for appropriate remedy in case of non-exercise of duty by the Punjab government or misuse of the discretion or its exercise in an arbitrary and whimsical manner in extending his release on health grounds. It “noted with dismay” that despite its “observations” regarding different provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and PPR, the Kot Lakhpat Jail Lahore Superintendent “never initiated or referred” the health matter for his release in spite of “his severe medical condition.”

Since the jail superintendent is under the Punjab government, the Inspector General, prisons, could have made recommendations to it for Nawaz Sharif’s release on account of indisposition, and the government, on its own, could have suspended the sentence if it was believed that the circumstances so warranted, the judgment said, adding that in case the former prime minister’s health does not improve and he needs further medical attention, the provincial government may, on its own, decide the issue regarding suspension of the sentence. Even otherwise, he may approach the provincial government under Section 401(2) CrPC.

According to the ruling, the executive/jail authorities do have powers to release a prisoner who is critically ill under Rules 143 and 164 of the PPR. Another aspect of the matter is that the PPR prescribes procedure for release of prisoners on bail suffering from disease. The jail superintendent may recommend a prisoner for premature release who, owing to old age, infirmity or illness is permanently incapacitated from the commission of further crime of the nature of that for which he has been convicted.

The case will be submitted to the government through the inspector general. It will be accompanied by the recommendations of the medical officer. The inspector general will, in all such cases, obtain the medical opinion of the medical board which will be convened by the Director of Health Services, the order said and added that this judgment may be taken as an eye-opener for the federal and provincial governments to rescue the inmates suffering from serious illness by exercising powers under Section 401 of CrPC and to relieve them of their plight.

The LHC verdict had formulated five law points while admitting the petition for regular hearing to be fixed in the third week of January 2020.

These points were: Whether a convict at all be excluded from or included in the list of Exit from Pakistan (Control) under 2010 rules; whether the condition attached to the impugned memorandum can be separated or is a part and parcel of it; whether any conditions be attached unilaterally by the federal government in the impugned memorandum on the basis of Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981 and the rules made thereunder; whether the impugned order can be passed for a critically ill convict only on the humanitarian grounds; and whether the conditions so imposed are permissible even after passing of the orders of bail and suspension of sentence? If yes, will it strengthen the court's order in any manner?