ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Wednesday granted post-arrest bail to former president Asif Ali Zardari on medical grounds in two corruption references.

The bail plea was accepted against two surety bonds worth Rs10 million each.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq conducted hearing on bail petitions of Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in corruption references filed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) pertaining to Park Lane Company and mega money laundering.

The petitioners’ counsel Farouk H Naek, Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana and Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi were also present before the court on behalf of the NAB.

Upon the directions of the IHC bench, NAB prosecutors read out the medical reports of Zardari to the courtroom.

During the outset of hearing, Zardari’s medical report was produced before the bench, which had been prepared by a five-member medical board constituted by the court to examine the former president’s health. NAB prosecutor Bharwana readout the report loudly on directives of the chief justice.

The medical report stated that former president’s treatment was not possible inside jail due to his current health condition. It added that Zardari was suffering from type-2 diabetes and also facing heart ailments. It further revealed that the former president had three stents placed in him and needed an angiography.

The NAB prosecutor apprised the bench that his department had completed its investigation and filed a reference against Zardari and others.

The chief justice asked that whether the NAB still wanted Zardari in jail and received the medical treatment on government expenditures. The court, however, granted bail to Zardari in both cases.

Meanwhile, the same bench heard a bail application filed by Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur but adjourned hearing on it until December 17 after the NAB requested the court to grant more time for submission of its reply against this petition.

In an application filed earlier this month, Talpur maintained that she was the mother of a differently-abled child. In order to care for her child, she asked the court to grant bail until completion of the trial.

The IHC dual bench noted in its order, “For the above reasons, we allow this petition and grant the concession of bail on medical grounds to the petitioner subject to furnishing surety bonds in the sum of Rs.10,000,000/ (rupees ten million) with one surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of the learned Accountability Court.”

It added, “Needless to mention that this is a tentative assessment, which shall not affect the trial of this case in any manner.”

In its order, the court said that the facts, in brief, are that the NAB initiated proceedings wherein the petitioner was one of the accused and the competent authority issued his warrant of arrest and he was arrested on 10th June while he remained on physical remand for 68 days.

The bench added that during his incarceration the health of the petitioner deteriorated and, therefore, he was admitted for medical treatment in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and since 22nd October, the petitioner had been receiving medical treatment at the hospital while the petitioner filed the instant petition seeking his post-arrest bail solely on medical grounds.

The order mentioned his new medical report saying, “With his heart condition and evidence of silent ischemia, he is at risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction which may lead to a sudden cardiac death. The diseases and ailments from which the patient is suffering cannot be treated in the premises of jail as he requires specialized multidisciplinary consultants, therapist and investigations on a daily basis as per requirement. His continuous detention in the jail can be hazardous to his life both in terms of multiple co-morbids and permanent impairment.”

The court order maintained that the learned Additional Deputy Prosecutor General of the Bureau was asked whether he opposed grant of bail on medical grounds keeping in view the opinion of the medical board which had explicitly mentioned in its report, dated 09th December, that treatment could not be provided in prison and continuous detention could be fatal. He has stated that the principles for grant of bail are settled.

It continued that Zardari had not been convicted and, therefore, he was to be treated as innocent unless proven guilty. The opinion of the medical board was unambiguous. Further incarceration of the petitioner would not serve any useful purpose. Moreover, his constitutionally guaranteed right to life was not impaired or suspended merely because proceedings under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999 were pending before a learned accountability court.

“Keeping in view the unambiguous opinion of the medical board, refusal to grant the petitioner bail on medical grounds would definitely be in violation of his fundamental right guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution. Even otherwise, it will be in public interest to grant bail to petitioner because his medical treatment during his incarceration is an expense on the public exchequer. Releasing him on bail will enable him to receive medical treatment of his choice and at his own expense,” noted the IHC bench.

In his petition filed through his counsel Farooq H Naek Advocate, Zardari adopted that he was seriously ill and his condition might deteriorate further unless bail is granted. He continued that he was a chronic patient suffering from various ailments which were not limited to cardiovascular disease.

The PPP co-chairperson’s medical reports were also submitted along with the petition to the IHC so that bail could be granted.

Separately, PPP Chairman Bilawal Zardari Wednesday thanked nation and party workers for their prayers for former president Asif Ali Zardari.

In a tweet, Bilawal Bhutto said that Asif Zardari had been granted bail by the IHC.

Later, talking to media persons outside the IHC along with Aseefa Bhutto, Syed Nayyer Bokhari, Syed Qaim Ali Shah and other party leaders, he thanked the judges over dispensation of justice by granting bail on medical grounds for the treatment of his father.