Nearly a month after he was released on bail, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has finally left for London in an air ambulance to seek medical treatment. Even his departure faced several roadblocks, political melodrama, and wrangling in the courts.
The government faced a tough situation when deciding to allow the former premier to leave the country. After all Nawaz Sharif had been sentenced and there was no precedent allowing a convict to travel abroad for treatment. Eventually, the government set preconditions for Nawaz’s release which included submitting an indemnity bonds worth a whopping Rs7 billion.
The demand was deemed unacceptable by the PML-N who knocked on the court to strike down the requirement. The Lahore High Court swiftly ruled within days in Nawaz Sharif’s favour, allowing him to travel abroad without any preconditions. This was a win-win situation for all concerned as the government could shift the onus onto the judiciary. The court will hear a separate case next year whether a convict can be allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment.
In the meantime, Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by his brother Shehbaz and personal physician, is off to London. A chartered air ambulance arrived in Lahore to carry him to safer pastures. He has been allowed to travel abroad for four weeks but it seems that he will most likely stay longer. He is expected to travel to Boston after a detailed medical check-up in London.
Until recently, Nawaz Sharif had consistently expressed a lack of desire to leave the country and would fight for his political survival. It cannot be said for certain whether Nawaz Sharif was pushed to move abroad. Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power promising an anti-graft campaign to bring back the stashed wealth of corrupt politicians. The court’s decision to allow Nawaz Sharif to depart might be a setback for the government, but it has chosen not to challenge the decision.
PMLN patriots believe their leader Nawaz Sharif will come back but it seems improbable. Sharif has been a central figure in Pakistan’s turbulent politics and has been ousted from power on three different occasions. It is unlikely that he will ever return to the helm of power. His repeated clash with state institutions will certainly taint his future in Pakistan’s politics.
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