October 24, 2019 / 7:42 AM / 24 days ago

Pakistani opposition raises alarm about health of ex-PM Sharif

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan’s main opposition party said on Thursday the health of its leader, jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was deteriorating and the government was victimising him by delaying treatment as part of a campaign against him and his family.

FILE PHOTO: Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, speaks during a news conference at a hotel in London, Britain July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

Sharif, 69, a three-time prime minister, is serving a seven-year jail sentence after a conviction for corruption last year. He denied the charges that he said were politically motivated.

He was taken to hospital in the city of Lahore on Monday and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz, PML-N, has raised concern about his alarmingly low platelet count.

“He has undergone several scans and tests and doctors are still trying to find the cause,” the party’s deputy secretary general, Atta Tarar, told Reuters.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said “political differences notwithstanding,” his sincere prayers were with Sharif for his health.

“I have directed all concerned to ensure provision of the best possible health care and medical treatment to him,” Khan said in a post on Twitter.

The government has said Sharif’s low platelet count might have been caused by medication.

The Sharif party’s secretary for information, Maryam Aurangzeb, earlier condemned what she called a “deliberate delay” in moving Sharif to hospital and in his treatment.

“The government is crossing all limits of political victimisation against PML-N and the Sharif family,” Aurangzeb said.

The government denies that the legal action against Sharif and other members of his family, including elder daughter Maryam Nawaz, who is also in detention for suspected graft, is politically motivated.

Sharif’s party filed an application for bail on medical grounds and a court was considering it on Thursday.

Authorities have said Sharif could be sent abroad for treatment, as the party has suggested, if a court allowed it.

‘RUTHLESSNESS’

Maryam, who recently assumed leadership of the party and was detained in August on suspected corruption, was allowed to visit her father in hospital late on Wednesday.

Her medical condition is also poor, party officials say.

“Maryam Nawaz who was also admitted to the same hospital last night for medical reasons has been sent back to jail early Thursday,” Aurangzeb said.

“It also speaks of the government’s ruthlessness.”

Maryam, who led big anti-government rallies across the country this year, is one of the few opposition figures to openly criticise Khan and the powerful military, accusing them of stifling her party’s political activity.

Sharif’s younger daughter, Asma Nawaz, was travelling back to Pakistan from abroad to see her father, said another party official.

“She is deeply concerned about her father’s health,” the official, Azma Bukhari, told Reuters.

Top officials of the other main opposition party have also been detained on suspicion of corruption.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was arrested by the anti-graft agency in June.

Officials of his Pakistan People’s Party say his detention is government persecution. The government denies involvement in the case.

Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Sam Holmes and Bernadette Baum

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