Letter seeks ‘expert medical opinion’ of former prime minister’s ability to return to Pakistan from the U.K.
The Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) on Wednesday wrote to the Punjab government, asking it to constitute a medical board to determine the current status of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and whether or not he is able to return to Pakistan.
Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), was granted one-time permission in November 2019 by the Lahore High Court to travel abroad for medical treatment. In an undertaking submitted to court by his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, he was to remain in the U.K. for four weeks but had an option to extend his stay if doctors recommended that he was not fit to travel back to Pakistan.
The undertaking given by Shahbaz, who serves as Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, had claimed he would provide the high court registrar with periodical medical reports, duly notarized by the embassy or high commission of Pakistan. It said that if the federal government had credible information that Nawaz was living abroad despite being fit to travel, it could task a representative from the embassy or high commission to meet his physicians and verify his health status.
Earlier this week, the federal cabinet decided to initiate proceedings against the Sharif family for the apparent violation of the undertaking submitted before the LHC, with Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain saying the attorney general would be tasked with seeking the disqualification of Shahbaz over giving a “false” affidavit to the court.
“In order to initiate the process of verification in the light of the Nov. 16, 2019 Lahore High Court order, the Government of Punjab is requested to constitute a medical board/committee to examine the documents submitted as medical reports on behalf of the petitioner and Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif so that expert medical opinion regarding the physical condition of Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif and his ability to travel back to Pakistan is made available,” read the letter addressed to Punjab Home Secretary Zafar Nasrullah Khan by the attorney general’s office.
It noted that former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and his elder brother had both given undertakings before the court for Nawaz’s return. It recommended that the medical board constituted by the Punjab government examine the documents submitted by the petitioner to the LHC, and evaluate and form an opinion based on the public activities of the former prime minister. Once expert medical opinion had been formed, the AGP office said, it would proceed as per the order of the high court.
Referring to Nawaz’s public appearances in London, the letter pointed out that his “apparent present physical condition was available in the media.” It said that his apparent improvement in the days following his departure indicated he was no longer in such critical condition.
“Given the fact that he had left the country claiming to be in extreme critical condition which prima facie improved significantly after his arrival in London and the fact that he has apparently never been hospitalized and his political, social and other recreational activities have continued uninterrupted … indicate that severe ailment, if any, that may have existed in past is no longer evident or [constrains] his activities,” it said. “This is further reinforced by the public statements made and reported in the media by his close family members including Shahbaz Sharif and other political associates, who recently met Nawaz Sharif in London,” it added.
Noting that the former prime minister’s activities in London suggested he was now fit to return to Pakistan, the AGP’s letter nonetheless stressed that this could only be confirmed following an independent, expert medical opinion.