Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has left Pakistan in an air ambulance to receive medical treatment in London, his party said, a month after the three-times prime minister was released on bail from a seven-year sentence for corruption.
Sharif, 69, was accompanied by his younger brother and personal physician, according to leaders of his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Party (PMLN).
The former prime minister is suffering from an auto-immune blood disorder, high blood pressure and deteriorating kidney function, according to aides.
His doctor said he was “fighting for his life”.
Despite his convictions for corruption, Sharif remains popular among some Pakistanis, and his health has dominated newspaper front pages and TV channels in recent weeks.
“Thank God that he has left for the medical treatment he needs urgently,” the party’s parliamentarian Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday.
“Nawaz Sharif will go to Boston after going through a detailed checkup in London. During his travel, he will stay in Doha for two hours,” Sharif’s close aide Pervaiz Rashid told Reuters.
Pakistan‘s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Reuters in a November 8 interview that the government had no objection to Sharif travelling abroad, opening the possibility of his imminent departure.
But Sharif was only allowed to leave after agreeing to a series of conditions preventing him seeking exile, including submitting periodic medical reports notarised by Pakistan‘s embassy in London, according to court documents.
Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison on corruption charges in December last year. Since he was granted bail last month on medical grounds, his party and family have been fighting to get his name removed from a travel ban list to allow him to seek treatment overseas.
Last week the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan demanded he pay a bond of seven billion Pakistani rupees ($45m) as a condition of his travel – which the PML-N, immediately rejected.
After days of political deadlock the condition was finally lifted, party workers showered rose petals on his car as it left his house on the outskirts of the eastern city of Lahore.
Known as the “Lion of Punjab”, Sharif is a political survivor who has repeatedly returned to the country’s top office. He served three terms – but did not complete a single one.
His first tenure, beginning in 1990, ended in 1993 when he was sacked over corruption. The second lasted from 1997 to 1999, when he was deposed by the powerful military.
Sharif blamed the security establishment again for targeting him in 2017 when the Supreme Court disqualified him from politics for life over graft allegations. He has denied the allegations.