A top Pakistani court on Friday granted bail to jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who is undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with an acute immune disorder which reduced his blood platelet count to dangerous levels.
The 69-year-old Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo was rushed to the Services Hospital in Lahore from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) office late on Monday night after a massive drop in his platelet count.
A two-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC), headed by Justice Baqar Najafi, heard the petition of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif seeking the release of his elder brother from the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on medical grounds in the money laundering case and accepted it.
According to the short order, Sharif will have to submit two surety bonds worth Rs10 million each for his release in the case.
However, Sharif will not be released immediately as the Islamabad High Court adjourned the hearing of his bail plea in a separate Al-Azizia steel mills case until Tuesday.
The three-time premier's lawyer Ashtar Ausaf told the court that his condition is "extremely serious" and he should be granted bail.
The NAB's prosecutor did not challenge the defence's plea, saying since it is a matter of serious health issue of the former premier, it does not oppose his bail.
Speaking to the media outside the court, Shehbaz Sharif, thanked the Lahore High Court for granting his ailing brother bail on medical grounds.
"The entire nation is happy with the release of Mian Nawaz Sharif on bail," he said.
Maryam Aurangzeb, a spokeswoman for Sharif, said she hopes he will be granted bail in the second case as well on Tuesday so that he can receive medical treatment at a hospital of his choice. It was unclear whether Sharif would wish to travel abroad for treatment.
Sharif has been under treatment at the Services Hospital since Monday night after his condition deteriorated in the NAB's custody. He is also serving a seven-year imprisonment in the Al-Azizia corruption case.
A 10-member medical board, headed by Services Hospital Principal Ayaz Mahmood, also submitted his report to the court declaring his condition "very serious". Dr Ayaz said the board has diagnosed the reason for his declining health.
"It is acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a bleeding disorder, in which the immune system destroys platelets. Since Sharif's platelet counts are constantly reducing, we inject platelets every day but they destruct every day," he said.
On Thursday evening, Sharif's platelet count again dropped from 20,000 to 6,000. Dangerous internal bleeding can occur when the platelet count falls below 10,000 platelets per microliter, according to doctors.
"The medical reports of the PML-N supreme leader have been sent to doctors abroad for their opinion," a party leader said.
Renowned hematologist and bone-marrow transplant expert Dr Tahir Sultan Shamsi said Sharif did not have bone cancer, but rather acute ITP which is treatable in Pakistan.
Expressing relief over the diagnosis, the doctor further said that the ailment can be cured with the right medications.
Senior PML-N leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif told reporters on Thursday that going abroad for treatment if granted bail would be the discretion of Nawaz Sharif.
To come out jail and custody of the NBA, Sharif needs bails from the IHC and the LHC. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) also took up a petition to release him on medical grounds in Al-Azizia steel mills case in which he was convicted for seven years in December last year and was kept in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail.
A two-member IHC bench, comprising Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar, was informed that Sharif's condition was not good as his platelets count was not stable. The court sought complete medical reports of Sharif and adjourned the hearing till October 29.
Sharif was in Kot Lakhpat jail but early this month was sent to the custody of NAB which is probing the Sharif family in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered to provide the best medical treatment to Sharif.
Khan has also issued directives to keep Maryam Nawaz, Sharif's daughter, with him at the same hospital after the federal government faced criticism for shifting her back to jail in a corruption case.
Maryam was admitted to the Services Hospital in Lahore on Wednesday where she was rushed from the high security Kot Lakhpat jail to meet Sharif on account of his deteriorating health on the directives of Khan and felt sick.
The 45-year-old leader was admitted to VVIP ll, while her father is admitted in VVIP-l. She underwent some tests after which she was shifted back to the jail.
Meanwhile, a leading Pakistani newspaper criticised the Imran Khan-led government for being so dismissive about the former prime minister's illness and casual about his treatment.
"Some official responses to the illness and treatment of Mian Nawaz Sharif can easily earn the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf setup pride of place among the most blundering governments," Dawn newspaper said in an opinion piece.
"Prime Minister Imran Khan has finally persuaded himself to send a get-well-soon message to Mr Sharif. However, the manner in which his medical condition was used to settle scores by some of Mr Sharif’s opponents has left a gaping wound which may continue to cause pain and anguish for a long time to come," the paper commented.