A picture of Nawaz Sharif dining out at a London restaurant with his brother Shahbaz, their sons, and other kin, including the absconding ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar, this week went viral and has once again brought into sharp focus the ailing former prime minister’s apparent “critical” health.
The image has given the media, especially electronic, the fodder to reignite the debate over its merit. This wasn’t the first such huddle, but is destined to gather traction given the proclaimed severity of his condition and terms of release — eight weeks off — from prison allowed by the court on health grounds have now run their course.
It has already drawn plenty of sarcasm, especially from those members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet who were opposed to letting off Sharif in the first place. Consider this tweet from the outspoken Fawad Chaudhry, the Federal Minister for Science and Technology, whose propensity for speaking his mind is matched by only a few amongst his colleagues.
“Scenes of a meeting in the intensive care unit of a London hospital, the treatment for binge-eating is underway with sheer concentration, all patients are feeling better,” Chaudhry tweeted.
Sharif, 70, who has a history of cardiac issues, and now reportedly, an immune system disorder, was serving a sentence in the so-called Al-Azizia Steel Mills graft case when his condition deteriorated last October to the extent that an intervention was petitioned by his medical team with the Islamabad High Court and granted.
The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf government, which conducted its own medical investigation and appeared willing to relent after the alarming findings, sought a security guarantee worth the amount Sharif was convicted for, but was overruled by the court with only a simple guarantee of return submitted by Sharif’s brother Shahbaz.
The verdict created quite a ripple when subsequent pictures of Sharif boarding a special flight to London and an inflight image emerged on the social media, where the ex-PM did not quite look the part of a “patient”. It caused consternation in the ruling circles and a perturbed Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared to reflect those at a public event post-verdict where he appealed to the chief justice (who has since retired) and his successor to help “restore the confidence of the people in the courts” by removing the perception of discrimination between the powerful and the weak with an equal application of law.
The chief justice however, appeared to snub the chief executive’s assertion, suggesting the release was the government’s call, and that while the judiciary was “not perfect”, it was ringing “a silent revolution”. It would be interesting to see how much of a “revolution” is in the works, especially after the Lahore High Court allowed relief to Sharif last November but not before notifying the government’s writ to make a call on any further medical reports.
With little update coming out of London on Sharif in the interim — in complete contrast to the windmills churning furiously on diving platelets before his flight — there was wide speculation that he would seek an extended stay amid rumours of a ‘political’ deal. Expectedly — some may be wont to suggest, true to form — Sharif has, indeed, applied for an extension, but a wary PTI government is unwilling to buy the updated report, and has even rejected it. A case of once bitten, twice shy, perhaps, but also because it has lost a bit of political capital having promised never to compromise on corruption by giving the “plunderers of national wealth” — which is how it has always seen Sharif — any relief.
Sharif is now counting on the Royal Brompton Hospital’s three reports: Rubidium Cardiac PET-CT scan; Holter Analysis; and Echocardiogram for succour.
Cardiothoracic Surgeon David Lawrence has issued a medical summary based on reports by the Royal Brompton and Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. The reports disclose that Sharif has significant areas of compromised perfusion and there is an element of impaired cardiac function as well with the heart at risk of another adverse cardiac event.
The Royal Brompton and Lawrence have recommended urgent heart intervention but suggest that Sharif cannot undergo the invasive procedure unless cleared by the haematologists given his platelet counts are variable and unstable.
Lawrence’s summary adds: “The impression is of compromised heart blood supply and functionality particularly in the circumflex territory. I recommend that Mr Sharif undergo coronary angiography at the earliest as there is a significant part of his heart at risk. I would strongly recommend urgent coronary intervention. Failure to do this could compromise his myocardium, his cardiac health, and his well-being.”
“The Guy’s and St Thomas’ haematology experts are managing his unstable platelet count to make him safe for an invasive procedure including lymph node biopsy. The significant carotid artery disease further makes the issue complex and is managed simultaneously on aggressive medical therapy pending an intervention,” he concluded.
This hasn’t impressed Dr Yasmin Rashid, the health minister of ruling PTI’s Punjab province, who was also involved in the medical investigation and reporting on Sharif prior to the approval granted by Prime Minister Khan’s government. Following the appearance of Sharif’s apparently, steady looking pictures, media reports emerged of a certain dismay within the party ranks at how an experienced medical professional like Rashid allegedly “fell for the (Sharif’s adverse) reports”!
Earlier this week, she called up Dr Adnan Khan, Sharif’s personal physician, who led the ‘battle cry’ for seeking his client’s urgent treatment abroad, to furnish the latest update. After receiving one, she declared it “unsatisfactory”.
“The report does not mention anything new related to the treatment being accorded to Nawaz Sharif,” she told reporters in Lahore,” adding she had talked to the physician twice and told him that the bail given to his patient had been on humanitarian and health grounds.
She also had something to say about the viral post. “Everyone has seen the viral photos of Nawaz Sharif on social media. We have asked Dr Adnan to tell us whether the excursions of the former premier have anything to do with his health condition.”
Rashid wouldn’t buy into the explanation tweeted by his son about seeking “a breath of fresh air” when the photos were taken, 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.”
* The writer is Features Editor and tweets @kaamyabi.
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