Pakistan’s ailing ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif left by air ambulance Tuesday for London, where he is due to receive medical treatment after battling the government for permission to travel, his doctor and close aides said.
Sharif, 69, is suffering from an autoimmune blood disorder, has high blood pressure, and his kidney functions are deteriorating, according to aides. His doctor has said he is “fighting for his life”.
He had been in prison serving a sentence for corruption but was bailed last month to receive treatment. Since then his party and family have been fighting to get his name removed from a travel stop list to allow him to go overseas for treatment.
The government of Sharif’s rival Imran Khan had said it would not stand in the way, but last week demanded he pays a bond of seven billion Pakistani rupees ($45 million) as a condition of his travel — which Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), immediately rejected.
After days of political deadlock, the condition was finally lifted and Sharif was flown to London via Doha on a Qatar Airways air ambulance.
Party workers showered rose petals on his car as it left his house on the outskirts of the eastern city of Lahore.
Senior PML-N member Pervaiz Rasheed confirmed to reporters that Sharif was en route to London.
Sharif’s aides have said the unexplained cause and uncertain diagnosis of his illness require advanced investigations and specialized care.
The courts have granted him four weeks to receive treatment, though that can be extended pending medical advice.
Known as the “Lion of Punjab”, Sharif is a political survivor who has repeatedly roared back to the country’s top office. He served three terms — but did not complete a single one.
His first, beginning in 1990, ended in 1993 when he was sacked for corruption. The second lasted from 1997 to 1999, when he was deposed by the powerful military.
Sharif blamed the security establishment for again targeting him in 2017 when the Supreme Court disqualified him from politics for life over graft allegations, which he denies.—AFP