Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been unwell, fighting heart disease. He recently suffered from new episodes of angina but according to his family and party, government authorities have deliberately refused to move him from jail to a hospital.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government claims that everything is fine and that Sharif is not facing any health threat.
To find out the real nature of Sharif’s health problem, this correspondent contacted his personal physician Dr Adnan Khan to inquire about whether this thrice-elected prime minister has been given unfair treatment during his illness, in contrast to how the dictator Pervez Musharraf who was moved immediately to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) when he complained about a minor pain in his chest.
Here is what Dr Adnan said in response to this correspondent’s questions:
The Punjab provincial government has shared the medical report on Nawaz Sharif, and its ministers are saying that there is nothing to worry about?
They have shared the two reports with us, one from Allama Iqbal Medical College Jinnah Hospital and the second one from PIC [Punjab Institute of Cardiology]. They have shared the findings of the Allama Iqbal Medical College report; they have not shared the complete report of the PIC board. The Jinnah Hospital report has been shared, while they have only shared one-page concluding remarks of the report of the PIC. The Allama Iqbal medical board said categorically that Sharif has uncontrolled hypertension, poor control of diabetes, advanced kidney disease and underlying ischemia as well. And the board of Allama Iqbal Medical College concluded that it would be better to shift Nawaz Sharif to hospital.
Are you allowed to meet with him to check his health or can you only meet with him every Thursday?
I can only see Nawaz Sharif on Thursday of every week. They allowed me to meet Nawaz Sharif once when he was taken to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology and the day when the Allama Iqbal Medical College board was examining the ex-prime minister. Otherwise I have no permission to see Sharif.
The Punjab government said that you should consult the concerned authority to get permission.
They said that I should request [permission from] the superintendent of the jail. I have done but up to now I have not been given permission to see Sharif.
What about Sharif’s kidney disease?
It is in an advanced stage. His creatinine and urea levels are raised and Jinnah Hospital and Allama Iqbal Medical College have reported this in writing.
Now that the Punjab government has constituted another medical board, are you satisfied with this development?
Look, the earlier PIC medical board mentioned that there is a moderate partial irreversible inferolateral ischemia. There is a lack of blood supply. In May 2016 Nawaz Sharif went through a heart surgery. He received four grafts, and after a while we came to know that one of the four grafts was not working.
So do you want the government authorities to shift Nawaz Sharif to the hospital, and should his grafts be changed?
Ideally he should be hospitalized and his active diseases should be stabilized, and then he should be further investigated. Most probably, intervention angiography and a cardiac cardiac cath procedure should be conducted, so we can understand that if the blockage exists then where actually it is, what extent of blockage is this and how it should be treated. The PIC in this regard [asked] the larger board for further investigation of the health of Sharif. They have not discussed further management of the prevalent disease or probably they would have [reported the need] to stabilize Sharif’s active diseases, but it has not been shared with us. In the larger medical board, the cardiologists from AFIC, RIC [Rawalpindi institute of Cardiology] and PIC are included. Let’s see how it goes.
Being his personal physician, the government is not bound ethically to share Nawaz Sharif’s medical reports with you?
I have requested them time and again. Maryam Nawaz has also asked them to share the detailed reports. The medical board of Allama Iqbal Medical College compiled a report on January 17. I made applications to the chief secretary and secretary of health and on the 22nd of January the report findings were shared with us. The details of the reports of the PIC board have not been shared with me. I have written a letter today to the authorities to share the latest findings and reports of the PIC medical board. Ideally, they should share these reports with me and with Nawaz Sharif and his family. See, this is not rocket science: If you go to a doctor for a medical test, it is your and your family’s right to ask for the report of the test. I asked the authority in the presence of Nawaz Sharif to share the reports and images of the X-rays of Mr Sharif so we can show them to some other doctors as well and get a second opinion. It is a right of the patient to get a second opinion from different doctors. It is the prerogative of the patient, but we have been denied this right.
What are your concerns now, and should Nawaz Sharif be hospitalized immediately?
He should have been admitted to hospital when he was having angina. He had more than one episode of angina. When he went to PIC for the medical investigation he was walking with me and he had the angina at that time as well. We told the medical staff there that he was having angina. It is documented that Nawaz Sharif is having an angina. It is tantamount to putting Nawaz Sharif’s life at risk; the repeated pain attacks of angina can give him a fatal heart attack as well.
How do you see Sharif’s ability to resist the disease, and is he dejected or is he fighting against all the odds with courage?
You know that Nawaz Sharif is a very strong man and he has patience, he has seen it all. I often tell people not to forget that recently he lost his life partner. It was a half-century relationship, and it [results in] a lot of stress, then he is almost at the age of 70 with multiple diseases like high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease. He is insulin dependent; now how they inject insulin in jail no one knows, whether blood sugar is checked or not remains in question. From Day 1, I was of the view that he was unwell and that he should be kept in hospital.
When he was kept in Adyala Jail he suffered the same angina and he was admitted to PIMS [Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences]. The same things have been repeated. God forbid if this lingers on: The pain could be increased and it could lead to a serious health condition or even a heart attack.