Cabinet decides not to appeal court order allowing Sharif to leave Pakistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs meeting of the Federal Cabinet at PM Office Islamabad on 19th November, 2019. (PID Photo)
Updated 20 November 2019

Cabinet decides not to appeal court order allowing Sharif to leave Pakistan

  • Accountability process is for everyone, says the law minister
  •  Government says collecting data to provide relief to elderly prisoners

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal cabinet decided on Tuesday it would not appeal a court verdict that allowed the country’s ailing former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to travel abroad for medical treatment.

“The cabinet has decided not to file an immediate appeal against a Lahore High Court verdict,” Federal Minister for Law Farogh Naseem said while addressing a news conference in Islamabad.

The Lahore High Court on Saturday permitted Sharif to leave Pakistan for four weeks on medical grounds, without imposing any other conditions. The court said he could also apply for an extension to the bail period if his treatment required him to stay abroad for a longer duration.

69-year-old three-time premier, Sharif on Tuesday left for London on an air ambulance. He is suffering from an autoimmune blood disorder and was recently released on an eight-week medical bail from a prison facility in Lahore where he was serving a seven-year sentence on corruption charges.

The former prime minister, who has dominated Pakistan’s politics for about three decades, denies all corruption allegations against him, claiming they are politically motivated.

The government of Sharif’s rival, Prime Minister Imran Khan, had earlier said it would not stand in the way, though it demanded him to pay indemnity bonds of seven billion Pakistani rupees last week, which Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), immediately rejected.

After days of political deadlock, the court has granted the PML-N founding leader four weeks to receive treatment after getting an undertaking from him and his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif that he would return to Pakistan soon after his medical recovery.

“We respect the court’s verdict …. The Pakistan High Commission in London and the British government will be informed about Nawaz Sharif’s illness and stay over there [for medical treatment],” the law minister said.

He added that the court would decide about the indemnity bond in January while clarifying that Prime Minister Khan did not have any personal “agenda” against the opposition. “We believe in accountability for all …. There is a need to make the criminal justice system more effective,” he continued.

Naseem said the government was collecting data of elderly and other prisoners involved in petty crime and “the cabinet will review all the cases [to provide them legal relief].”

Earlier in the day, in a veiled reference to Sharif’s departure to London for medical treatment, National Accountability Bureau Chairman Javed Iqbal said that while multiple people were sharing a single hospital bed in the country, there were others who were going abroad – “London or the US” – for treatment “even when they caught a cold.”

“Are the rest of us not humans …. God has created everyone equal,” he said while speaking at an event in Islamabad.


Locals call for expansion of Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Swat

Updated 24 January 2020

Locals call for expansion of Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Swat

  • Say the hospital has done excellent job, though it requires more resources to deal with growing number of patients
  • Setting up small health care facilities in remote regions can also decrease the workload of hospital staff

SAIDU SHARIF, Swat: Hundreds of people are treated at the Out Patient Department (OPD) of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Hospital in this picturesque valley, yet locals believe the facility must be expanded to provide uninterrupted health care service to growing number of patients.
“The OPD examines about 1,300 patients on a daily basis,” Dr. Najib Ullah, spokesperson for the Saidu Teaching Hospital, which also oversees the administrative affairs of Sheikh Khalifa Hospital, told Arab News on Thursday. “The patients come from remote areas, such as Buner, Chitral, Dir, Dargai, Shangla and Batkhela, keeping the health facility under heavy work pressure.”

A doctor examines a child at the pediatric unit of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Model Hospital in Saidu Sharif, Swat, on January 2, 2020. (Photo supplied by the hospital management)

Inaugurated in 2016, the 100-bed hospital was funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and built at a cost of $5.5 million, but the residents of the area maintain it should at least have 150 beds to deal with the overwhelming number of patients.
Hazer Gul, a senior executive who works with the development sector in Swat, told Arab News that the hospital was providing matchless health services to approximately 1.7 million people in and around the Swat region.
“If the UAE sets up small health units in remote hill stations, however, it will provide health services to people at their doorstep and decrease the workload of the hospital in Saidu Sharif,” Gul suggested.

A doctor examines a patient inside the medical ward at Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Model Hospital in Saidu Sharif, Swat, on January 2, 2020. (Photo supplied by the hospital management)

Stretching over 5,430 square meters, the spokesperson said the hospital was equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.
Among other things, it has emergency center, medical and surgical wards, operation theaters, cardiology and chest pain clinics, burn center, pediatric unit and neurosurgery and plastic surgery facilities, he added.

Medical staff talks to patients at the Out Patient Department (OPD) of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Model Hospital in Saidu Sharif, Swat, on January 2, 2020. (Photo supplied by the hospital management)

Fazl-e-Subhan, a native of Saidu Sharif, said the UAE-funded hospital had been providing excellent services, but the number of patients was steadily growing, putting tremendous pressure on the health care facility.
“The UAE can either establish small health units in other areas or expand the staff and other facilities at this one,” he maintained.
Dr. Najib Ullah said that the hospital in Saidu Sharif has a separate pharmacy, and patients visiting the emergency center were given 90 percent of medicines free of cost.
“The hospital faces shortage of staff and lacks some equipment, such as wheelchairs. The capacity of the existing laboratory needs to be enhanced so that tests like arterial blood gas can also be performed here,” he continued.