–Two-judge bench says former premier can move Punjab govt for extension in bail
–NAB supports bail plea on ‘humanitarian grounds’, court says anti-graft watchdog ‘only party with a clear stance on matter’
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday suspended the jail term awarded to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case for 8 weeks as it approved a bail plea filed by his brother, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif.
The verdict had been reserved for a short period before it was announced on Tuesday afternoon.
The court, in its order, said that two surety bonds of Rs2 million each will have to be submitted to the court to secure Nawaz’s release. The court further announced that for an extension in bail, the Punjab government should be approached.
Nawaz, who is serving a seven-year jail term in the Al-Azizia case, last week secured bail on medical grounds in the ongoing Chaudhry Sugar Mills case from the Lahore High Court (LHC). He is currently under treatment at Services Hospital in Lahore where he was admitted on Monday last week after his health suddenly deteriorated.
A two-member bench, comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, heard the appeal on Tuesday.
Before the verdict was reserved, Justice Farooq had asked Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Haris, whether the president can grant amnesty to Nawaz before the bail plea is announced.
To this, Haris had replied: “He can invoke his presidential powers at any time. However, customarily, all forums are first approached.”
The court had observed that NAB seemed to be the only party with a clear stance on the matter and that the federal and provincial government were refraining from taking up a position.
“On which condition should we grant you bail?” Justice Farooq had asked Haris.
“On whichever condition that can give Nawaz Sharif a chance to recover,” he had replied.
The court then presented Nawaz’s counsel with four options: To forward the matter to the executive; to suspend the sentence in accordance with the time frame recommended by NAB; approve the petitioner’s application; reject the application.
In response, Haris had said it would not be advisable to forward the matter to a government which is “utterly against the Sharifs”.
At this, Justice Kiyani had said: “The prime minister and chief minister do not belong to a party. They belong to the entire country and province.”
Haris had then pointed out that the attorney general had even objected to the interim bail granted to Nawaz.
“We have come to court. Kindly decide the matter in accordance with the law,” the counsel had requested.
Justice Kiyani had said that if the government decides on the matter “it won’t be termed a deal”.
The counsel had reiterated the request for the court to decide the matter. “We will respect the decision,” he had said.
Subsequently, the court had reserved the verdict.
Earlier during the hearing, the court asked doctors, who are part of the medical board overseeing Nawaz’s treatment, if it was possible for the former premier to recover without staying in the hospital. The doctors responded in the negative and said that the PML-N supremo required medical supervision at all times.
The board informed the court that Nawaz had been given 80 injections in order to bring his platelet count — which was reported to have dropped to dangerous levels — to normal. The doctors said that earlier, the platelets injected in Nawaz’s body would be destroyed but added that the count was not wavering any more.
When asked if Nawaz had suffered a heart attack during his medical treatment, the doctors responded in the affirmative. However, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid told a presser on Saturday that Nawaz had an angina attack on Friday, but fortunately, it did not damage his heart.
Nawaz’s personal physician Dr Adnan Khan, who had arrived in court before the hearing started, said that so far, the board was not able to figure out the reason behind the destruction of the platelets in the former premier’s body. He told the court that Dr Raza Shamsi had been summoned from Karachi for Nawaz’s treatment.
“He (Nawaz) is still unstable,” Dr Khan said. “I have never seen him in such an alarming condition.” He said that the former premier’s blood pressure had shot up after dinner on Monday night as well.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, who appeared before the court on Tuesday, assured the bench that the provincial government was providing the best medical care to the former premier. He told the bench that the provincial government was working to bring forth prison reforms.
Defence counsel in the CSM case, Khawaja Haris, during his arguments, expressed dissatisfaction with the medical care of his client so far.
“So far we are not satisfied with the medical board’s treatment. The board itself is saying in its report that it is unable to manage [Nawaz’s treatment].
“Services Hospital does not have machinery to conduct [medical] tests. Nawaz Sharif has to be taken to different places for his tests to be conducted.”
Haris explained that Nawaz’s body was not able to generate platelets naturally and he was being given steroids and medicines in order to increase the platelet count. However, the treatment to increase platelet count posed an increased risk of a heart attack.
The lawyer clarified that while his client did not doubt the intention or capability of the doctors appointed for treatment, the medical board itself was not satisfied with Nawaz’s reports. He insisted that the former premier should be allowed to get treatment from doctors of his choice.
“Why doesn’t NAB submit a request for suspension of the sentence?” asked Haris. “If Nawaz Sharif’s condition improves, he can serve his sentence again.”
NAB SUPPORTS BAIL ON ‘HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS’
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor, during his arguments, said that the anti-corruption watchdog would not oppose bail on humanitarian grounds.
“I will not talk about merit, Nawaz Sharif’s condition is serious,” he said.
“If we do grant a bail, how long should it be for?” Justice Farooq asked the NAB prosecutor to which the latter said that the court can decide in accordance with a Supreme Court verdict that granted a six-week bail to seek medical treatment within the country.
The former premier was rushed to the Services Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS) last week after his personal physician raised an alarm about his deteriorating health.
On October 22, doctors at the hospital had termed Nawaz’s condition as ‘serious’ despite the transfusion of three mega units of platelets within hours of his admission.
According to the medical tests carried out, the platelet count of the former premier had “dropped from 16,000 to a critical level of 2,000” when he was brought to hospital late on Monday night, prompting the medical board members to go for “immediate transfusion of the platelets to save his life”, one of the board members had said.
After a struggle of three days, a six-member medical board, headed by Services Hospital Principal Ayaz Mahmood, on Thursday diagnosed the reason for Nawaz’s declining health.
“It is acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a bleeding disorder, in which the immune system destroys platelets,” a board member had told Dawn. He said the treatment was given to the former prime minister in the light of his diagnosis. “We are hopeful that his condition will improve in a few days,” he added.