In press conference, Punjab health minister says picture of former prime minister dining out at odds with medical relief
The one-time relief granted to former prime minster Nawaz Sharif for seeking medical treatment abroad expired in December and he must submit an updated report about his current condition or risk action by the Interior Ministry, Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid said on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmaker said the Islamabad High Court had granted Sharif eight weeks to seek medical treatment abroad, with an option to seek extensions based on his treatment. That dispensation expired on Dec. 25, she said, and questioned how poor his condition must be if he were able to go dining out in London.
Over the weekend, a photo of Sharif dining out with members of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) went viral, prompting fresh questions over whether he was actually in poor health. Rashid hit out at the photo, saying “everyone had seen the photos” and that “Nawaz Sharif seems fine on first glance.”
The provincial health minister also rejected claims by the PMLN that Sharif had been following doctors’ orders for some fresh air, saying that “sick people do not go out to dine at restaurants for fresh air, unless the air at the restaurant has some special oxygen.”
Rashid said the government had contacted Sharif’s personal physician, Dr. Adnan, to explain how his “leisurely outings” were benefiting his health, adding that it had been made clear that former prime minister was granted bail solely on humanitarian grounds. Referring to a report that Adnan had also shared on social media, she said it did not provide any new information about the type of treatment Sharif was undergoing or what his latest diagnosis was.
“I have asked Dr. Adnan to submit a new report [within 48 hours] on behalf of Nawaz Sharif. If Sharif is undergoing some treatment in London, we should be informed. The new report should indicate what tests Sharif has had done, and what treatment he is undergoing currently for his sickness,” she said, warning that if Sharif did not cooperate, the matter would be forwarded to the Interior Ministry for further action. If Sharif’s treatment had been completed and he was well, she said, he should return to Pakistan and continue his sentence.
Rashid also slammed an application filed by Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz to travel to London and take care of her father. “Where will she take care of him? At a restaurant? You take care of a person who is bedridden, which he is not, according to them, he was moving around,” she said.
Sharif was granted bail on medical grounds by the Islamabad High Court for eight weeks in late October. He had been serving a sentence in the Al-Azizia reference when his sentence was suspended and he subsequently left Pakistan for London to seek treatment.
PMLN spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb on Tuesday slammed as “political spectacle” Rashid’s press conference, alleging it had been staged at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan. She said it had been Rashid herself who had led a medical board that had advised Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment. The former prime minister’s latest reports were being sent to the Punjab government and the court regularly as per judicial orders, she added.
The controversy over the leaked photo started over the weekend when Federal Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry shared it on Twitter and poked fun at the “intensive treatment” being provided to Sharif. In the photo, the former premier is seen at a restaurant along with his son Hasan, PMLN President Shahbaz Sharif and his son Salman, and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.
Defending his father, Sharif’s other son Hussain told journalists in London that doctors had advised the former prime minister to walk twice a day. “Yesterday (Sunday) around 4:30 p.m. the family told him you must leave the house and after great persuasion he agreed,” he said. “We took him out for a walk and for a breath of fresh air. It is unfortunate that it is being given a political twist,” he added. “This is part of his treatment. This is why Pakistan’s courts have allowed him to travel abroad for treatment.”