Nawaz slams Punjab govt over ‘health issue politics’

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court accusing the Punjab government of politicising his health issue as the IHC will take up appeals against his conviction in Al-Azizia and Avenfield property references on Tuesday (today).

An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani is scheduled to hear the appeals of Maryam Nawaz and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield reference. Besides, the bench will also take up an appeal filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against acquittal of Nawaz Sharif in the Flagship reference.

All the three references are offshoots of the Panama Papers leak case relating to 785,000 offshore companies. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami and Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had brought the matter before the Supreme Court. The apex court had disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister and directed NAB to file three references against the Sharif family and one against then finance minister Ishaq Dar in the accountability court.

Accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir had on July 6, 2018 convicted Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar in the Avenfield reference while they were in the United Kingdom taking care of ailing Kulsoom Nawaz. Following the conviction, the Sharif family members returned to Pakistan and were imprisoned until the IHC released them on bail by suspending their sentence.

IHC takes up appeals against ex-PM’s conviction today; court will also hear NAB plea

Mr Sharif was also convicted by accountability judge Mohammad Arshad Malik in the Al-Azizia reference on Dec 24, 2018. The judge in a secretly recorded video admitted that he had convicted Mr Sharif under duress. He was later dismissed from service for misconduct.

The IHC had in October last year released Nawaz Sharif for a period of eight weeks on medical grounds, asking him to approach the Punjab government for further extension in the bail. The Punjab government, however, rejected the application seeking his bail.

The petition filed by Nawaz Sharif through his counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed and Barrister Munawar Iqbal Duggal stated that after the release from jail, the former prime minister was shifted to the Sharif Medical City where successive medical boards had after thorough examination recommended his treatment abroad.

The PTI government removed his name from the exit control list and Mr Sharif went to the UK for his treatment after the opposition leader filed a petition in the Lahore High Court.

According to the petition, after the expiry of two months, the Punjab government was requested for suspension of the sentence as the condition of Mr Sharif’s health did not improve; however, “the government of Punjab, acting maliciously in terms of its planned strategy, proceeded to reject the applicant’s application”.

Explaining the reason for delay in medical treatment of Mr Sharif, the petition stated: “While the initial medical examination and diagnosis preparatory to the applicant’s [Sharif’s] treatment had been conducted in the UK, and treatment options for the multiple ailments from which the applicant was suffering were being finalised, further progress in this regard came to a halt on account of the Covid-19 pandemic that first appeared in the UK in the first week of February 2020 and which thereafter led to virtual and then complete lockdown.”

It said that due to Covid-19, coupled with old age and critical medical condition of Mr Sharif, he was “forced to predominantly confine himself indoors”.

“However, in terms of the Hon’ble Lahore High Court’s order dated November 16, 2019, periodical medical reports of the applicant showing that he had still not regained his health were continuously filed with the learned registrar,” the petition said, adding that the last medical report submitted to the court showed that Mr Sharif did not regain his health and had effectively been advised to remain in the UK for treatment.

It said the Punjab government was aware of the fact “but instead of awaiting the decision of the Hon’ble Lahore High Court, the government of Punjab proceeded to unilaterally reject the applicant’s request in pursuance of its ulterior motives and pre-planned agenda to malign the applicant”.

The petition said that following the rejection of the application seeking extension in bail, Mr Sharif because of ailment and while being abroad could not have surrendered before the court to seek relief and, therefore, he did not file an application before the appropriate forum. It said Mr Sharif had explored various options and was even ready to return, but he was advised to stay in the UK, adding that he was ready to come back on the next available flight as soon as his medical team would give him travelling permission.

Mr Sharif requested the court to either allow his pleader to represent him in the proceedings or adjourn the hearing until his return.

Meanwhile, Amjad Pervaiz, the counsel for Maryam Nawaz and Capt Safdar, filed an application in the IHC with a request for adjourning the Avenfield case until after Sept 5. He argued that since he was already on general adjournment till Sept 5, he could not appear on Sept 1.