The significance of Nawaz Sharif’s bail

News Analysis

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The decision behind the bail comes after the deteriorating health of the former PM. Mr. Sharif has been released for six weeks, during which he can obtain medical treatment anywhere in the country.

The former PM was released from Kot Lakhpat jail, where a massive crowd of PML-N supporters had gathered in anticipation of their leader. Nawaz Sharif was released based on the decision of a three-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Nawaz Sharif’s counsel urged the bench to grant Nawaz Sharif bail arguing that he urgently needed an angiography. At the same time, the court noted that several senior doctors have mentioned Nawaz Sharif’s history of hypertension and cardiac ailments, which if not looked at properly will prove to be a “mild-moderate risk”.

The terms of the bail as reported by the Supreme Court are as follows:

  1. Nawaz Sharif shall not leave or be allowed to leave the country.
  2. Bail will automatically be cancelled upon expiry of six weeks from date of release.
  3. Sharif will have to surrender custody voluntarily, failing which he will be arrested.
  4. He will not be allowed to apply for further bail till he surrenders his custody.
  5. He is allowed treatment from medical practitioners and to avail medical facilities of his choice in Pakistan.
  6. If, during the period of his bail, the Islamabad High Court rules adversely in the appeal filed by Sharif before the IHC, the IHC will have full authority to decide how and when to arrest him.

The PML-N counsel urged the bench to grant Nawaz Sharif the right to go abroad for medical treatment, however, the bench following the incidence of the Al Azizia corruption cased denied Nawaz Sharif the privilege of going abroad citing that he [Nawaz Sharif] is to get medical treatment in Pakistan.

However, the decision of the Supreme Court not to grant Nawaz Sharif international medical attention should not be looked down upon, considering the series of circumstances that played out with ex-president Pervez Musharraf.

Some context

On the 3rd of November, 2007, President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, which lasted till the 15th of December. During this time Pervez Musharraf controversially held both the positions of the President of Pakistan and its Chief of Army Staff.

The state of emergency was attributed to the re-election of Musharraf. Ironically, prior to the declaration of the emergency, Attorney General Malik Qayyum, who represented Musharraf at the time, assured the courts that there was no planned move by the government to impose Martial Law. Musharraf imposed Martial Law owing to what he stated was judicial failure in state matters.

As a result of his actions, the movement to impeach Musharraf began and just before the impeachment proceedings, on August 18, 2008, Musharraf resigned. The former president then went into self-imposed exile in London in November of 2008.

On March 31, 2014, Musharraf was charged with high treason for implementing an emergency rule and suspending the constitution of Pakistan. The penalty for treason, under the constitution of Pakistan, given under the High Treason Act of 1973, shall be “punishable by death or life imprisonment.”

On the 18th of March, 2016, Musharraf’s name was removed from the exit control list on the pretense that he get medical treatment abroad. However, Musharraf still lives in Dubai in a self-imposed exile, perhaps fearing the repercussions of his return to Pakistan and the possibility of his arrest.

Moreover, on the 31st of August 2017, the Rawalpindi Court convicted Musharraf as an “absconder” in Benazir Bhutto’s murder case. After which the court also ordered that Musharraf’s property be seized. 

Now referring to the context of the medical treatment that Nawaz Sharif is to receive, it is in the courts best interest to deny that approval for him to travel abroad for medical treatment, fearing the same fate befalling them as with the case of Musharraf.

This also goes to show that a military dictator like Musharraf, who is being tried for high treason, gets to receive medical treatment abroad whereas a democratically elected former prime minister is not offered the same luxury. Ideally, they both shouldn’t be allowed to leave the country but in Pakistan some leaders are more equal than others. However, the Supreme Court seems to have set a precedent now where they will not let political prisoners escape the country.

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