Ailing former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif granted bail

Former premier was moved from prison to hospital this week after his health deteriorated

Policemen stand guard outside a hospital where former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is admitted after his condition deteriorated, in Lahore on October 24, 2019. Pakistani leader Imran Khan said on October 24 he was offering "sincere prayers" for his political rival Nawaz Sharif, after the ex-premier's deteriorating health saw him moved from prison to hospital this week. / AFP / ARIF ALI
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A top Pakistani court on Friday ordered convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be released on bail so he can seek medical treatment at home or abroad, his family and a lawyer said.

The decision was announced by the Lahore High Court after hearing a petition from Mr Sharif's brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who heads the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League party.

But this does not mean that the former premier will automatically be freed as he faces another appeal hearing for bail next week.

Nawaz Sharif was rushed from prison to the government hospital in Lahore on Monday after his health condition was said to have deteriorated. He has remained there under supervision of prison authorities.

The 69-year-old, who served three times as prime minister, has had a history of health problems, including heart disease.

His lawyer Ashtar Ausaf said court authorities cannot release Mr Sharif immediately until they hear a separate appeal set for next Tuesday. That hearing pertains to the second corruption conviction against his client.

"We are grateful to God. We are grateful to the judiciary which has granted bail to Nawaz Sharif who is facing a complicated disease," Shabaz Sharif told reporters outside the court in Lahore. "I request the nation to pray for speedy recovery of its leader."

Maryam Aurangzeb, a spokeswoman for Mr Sharif, said she hopes he will be granted bail in the second case as well so that he can receive medical treatment at a hospital of his choice. So far, it was unclear whether he would wish to travel for treatment outside Pakistan.

When Mr Sharif was taken to hospital on Monday, his doctors initially believed he had contracted dengue fever, which is rampant across Pakistan. But later medical tests concluded that his immune system malfunctioned, which was the reason for a low platelet count.

Panicked over his deteriorating health, Mr Sharif's family petitioned the court in Lahore, requesting his release.

During his political carrier, Mr Sharif faced many upheavals but could never overcome the death of his wife at a London hospital in 2018.

While he was in London visiting his wife Kulsoom Nawaz in hospital, a Pakistan court convicted and sentenced him and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on corruption charges. They were arrested on their return home and taken to prison to serve their sentences.

Sharif's 12-year conviction in one case was suspended but he was serving a seven-year jail term when the country's anti-graft body in the past weeks began questioning him in another case, related to his family's sugar mills.

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