ISLAMABAD/Lahore - Tuesday brought back-to-back positive news for the PML-N as its top leaders won relief from courts.

The Supreme Court partly allowed the appeal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and suspended his sentence for six weeks on medical grounds.

Lahore High Court ordered the government to remove the name of Shehbaz Sharif from the Exit Control List.

The suspension of Nawaz Sharif’s sentence is subject to furnishing a Rs5 million bail bond with two sureties each in the like amount to the satisfaction of the additional registrar (judicial) of the top court.

The top court observed that in the backdrop of Sharif’s medical history, the request for suspension of sentence for a limited period is reasonable.  Before announcement of the judgement, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, head of the three-member bench, remarked that the verdict was being announced after pondering on the matter from diverse angles.

Chief Justice Khosa ruled that Sharif’s bail was for a period of six weeks from the date of his release as a consequence of the instant order. Making it clear, the top court ruled that Sharif shall not leave the country nor shall he be allowed to leave the country during his bail period.

It is further ruled that the bail granted to Sharif shall automatically stand cancelled upon expiry of six weeks from the date of his release whereupon he shall surrender to custody voluntarily and failing which he shall be retaken into custody.

“Surrender to custody by the petitioner shall not include surrendering before a court with an application for bail,” the top court ruled.

“During the above mentioned period of six weeks the petitioner may get himself medically treated from medical practitioners and medical facilities of his choice in Pakistan,” it added.

The four-page written order authored by Chief Justice Khosa says: “If during that period of six weeks the appeal filed by the petitioner (Sharif) before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), Islamabad is finally decided by the said Court then upon such decision custody of the petitioner shall thereafter be regulated by an order of the High Court to be passed in that regard, if need be.”

The other members of the bench were Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi.

Sharif was convicted by an accountability court, which awarded him a sentence of seven-year rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of Rs1.5 billion and $25 million. Furthermore, all assets, properties, rights, receivables and interests of and in the Hill Metal Establishment stood forfeited to the federal government.

During the proceedings, Sharif’s medical reports were also brought on the record wherein it was suggested that Sharif had a long history of various ailments, including cardiac complications, kidney problem, hypertension and diabetes.

“Some of the reports prepared by the medical boards and available on the record clearly recommend that ‘the patient’s current symptoms necessitate coronary angiography, after nephrologist clearance’ and that ‘the patient needs cardiac catheterisation, for further management, in view of his symptoms of angina. Because of longstanding history of comorbidities and complicated cardiac surgical history, a nephrologist and cardiac surgical backup is recommended,” the top court stated in its order.

It has clearly been mentioned in such reports that while undergoing angiography, Sharif will be at a mild to moderate risk of contrast, including nephropathy.

“In this peculiar backdrop, and extending due deference to the consistent medical opinion of senior doctors available on the record, the prayer made by the learned counsel for the petitioner regarding admission of the petitioner to bail upon suspension of his sentence for a limited period has been found by us to be reasonable,” the top court observed in its written order.

During the proceedings, Advocate Khwaja Haris appeared on behalf of Sharif and pleaded before the bench that Sharif’s sentence may be suspended for at least a period of eight weeks so as to provide him an opportunity of proper medical treatment of his choice. He pleaded that upon expiry of the requisite period Sharif shall voluntarily surrender to custody. He contended that there would be no problem if Sharif is allowed bail. He also cited the example of Kalsum Nawaz and contended that when she was sick people kept saying otherwise and when she passed away people said she had died earlier.

The counsel submitted a letter from Dr Lawrence, the consultant who treated Sharif in the UK, to Dr Adnan.

However, the chief justice questioned legal status of the letter and asked how can it be presented as evidence?

Sharif’s counsel contended that he is not depending upon the letter and that it was the review by doctors on Sharif’s condition. He contended that seven stents had been implanted in Sharif’s heart and all medical boards recommended angiography. He said that it was not an ordinary angiography and he was also suffering from a kidney disease, which is in its third stage. He said the backup system was required during the angiography and presence of nephrologists was necessary.

The chief justice asked, is there is no hospital in the country with competent doctors and staff where Sharif can be treated? However, Haris contended that Sharif is under severe stress and his treatment will not be successful in such a stressful situation.

During the hearing, Haris cited the case of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Dr Asim Hussain, who was granted bail on medical grounds.

Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Barwana, on behalf of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), however, opposed Sharif’s appeal for bail. He argued that Sharif is a convicted prisoner who is already being offered as well as afforded the best medical treatment and facilities available in the country.

Justice Afridi asked when there is no threat to his life then why his angiography is not being conducted.

Justice Shah reprimanded the additional prosecutor and remarked that NAB was shifting Sharif from one hospital to another but none of the medical reports suggested that Sharif refused the treatment offered to him. “Is there any report of NAB, which suggests Sharif is stable?” asked Justice Shah.

NAB’s additional prosecutor replied in negation but added that the government of Punjab had appointed doctors to monitor Sharif’s health condition and he was being monitored round the clock.

Chief Justice Khosa asked why everyone, who comes to NAB, falls ill and faces mental stress. “Why don’t you (NAB) build a state-of-the-art hospital for treatment of accused when you claim recovery of billions of rupees?” asked Chief Justice Khosa.

“Or either the NAB gives so much stress to the accused that they start committing suicides,” the chief justice said, without naming the case of Brig (r) Asad Munir, who allegedly committed suicide to avoid humiliation. “We are looking into this matter as well,” the chief justice said.

Meanwhile, a Lahore High Court division bench ordered the government to remove the name of Shehbaz Sharif, Opposition Leader in National Assembly, from the ECL.

The bench, headed by Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, passed the orders on a petition, filed by the PML-N president against placing his name on the ECL.

Through Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, Shehbaz filed the petition in the Lahore High Court. At the outset of the proceedings, Shehbaz’s counsel told the bench that his client was fully cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau in all the cases filed against him.

The lawyer submitted that Shehbaz’s name be removed from the no-fly list so that he could travel abroad to meet some of his family members.

He argued that the ban on his travel abroad was a violation of his fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. He said that the right to travelling abroad and right to liberty are integral part of the right to life and right to meaningful life.

Shehbaz pleaded that his name had been placed on the ECL under the memorandum of February 21 and that it had been issued in an arbitrary manner. He also pleaded that it was issued against the law and facts.

Moreover, the counsel said that no notice or opportunity of hearing had been given to his client before placing his name on the no-fly list. He argued that the decision had been taken sans any justifiable material and in a non-transparent manner.

The petitioner said that the impugned memorandum is void for punishing him unheard, and that it fails to disclose correct reasons for its issuance.

He also took the plea that he was the leader of opposition in the National Assembly and head of his political party so he needs to travel in the country and abroad as well.

He submitted that the impugned memorandum of the government may kindly be set aside and his name be removed from the ECL.

However, NAB’s prosecutor apprised the court that an inquiry was in process against the PML-N president in connection with assets beyond means since Oct 23, 2018, in response to a court query. He submitted that suspicious transactions were detected in Shehbaz’s bank accounts. He submitted that Shehbaz should approach the forum concerned for removal of his name from the ECL.

However, at this stage, the bench observed that the prosecutor should present documentary evidence instead of levelling verbal allegations.

To which, Shehbaz’s counsel referred to Ayyan Ali’s case wherein the court ordered for removal of her name from the ECL. He submitted that his client’s name was put on the ECL after a court granted him bail. He mentioned that Shebaz used to go abroad and return home during investigations. He argued that Shehbaz’s name was placed on the ECL without any valid reason.

On February 14, the Lahore High Court decided his two cases of Ramzan Sugar Mills and Ashiana Housing society and ordered release of Shehbaz Sharif on bail. Later the court released 22-page decision in the Ashiana Housing scandal and a 20-page verdict in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case.

The court had remarked that a Punjab Land Development Authority board was behind transferring a project contract to Lahore Development Authority. Nevertheless, the accountability watchdog had claimed that Shehbaz misused his authority when he was Punjab chief minister to transfer the project.