Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif free on medical bail

A supporter of Pakistan former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif distributes sweets after the High court bailed Sharif on medical grounds, outside a hospital, in Lahore on October 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 26 October 2019

Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif free on medical bail

  • The former prime minister suffered a minor heart attack overnight
  • Sharif, who served three times as prime minister, has had a history of health problems, including heart disease

LAHORE: The Islamabad High Court on Saturday granted medical bail to jailed former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence after being convicted on corruption charges last year. 
Sharif was taken to a Lahore hospital on Monday where he was diagnosed with an immune system disorder. 
“The court has granted interim bail to Nawaz Sharif on humanitarian grounds till Tuesday,” Zafrullah Khan, a lawyer for Sharif, told media.
The former PM has also been granted bail in a corruption case involving a sugar mill for which he had been remanded in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau for questioning.
Bail in the Al Azizia corruption case was granted after the NAB told the court during Saturday’s hearing that it had “no objections to bail being granted,” the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.
On Saturday, Sharif’s physician said that he had suffered a heart attack in hospital.
“His condition is not good,” Dr. Adnan Khan told Arab News on Saturday.
In a Twitter post, Khan said that his patient’s clinical status was “extremely and critically unstable, putting health and life at risk.”
Sharif’s brother Shehbaz, who is president of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), filed a bail appeal with the Islamabad High Court on Friday. The court deferred the matter until Tuesday, but a miscellaneous application was submitted on Saturday asking that the case be heard urgently.
In court, Khawaja Haris, Sharif’s main lawyer, said that the former PM had suffered a life-threatening heart attack. He also presented a copy of Friday’s judgment by the Lahore High Court granting Sharif bail in the Chaudhary Sugar Mills case on medical grounds.
On Monday, Dr. Mahmood Ayaz, head of a medical board formed to examine Sharif, told a court that Sharif had acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura, a bleeding disorder that destroys blood platelets in the body.
After Sharif was taken to hospital, PMLN members claimed that his health is deteriorating and the government is delaying treatment.
“Nawaz Sharif has been suffering from multiple diseases for a long time,” senior PMLN leader Pervaiz Rashid told Arab News. “The reports submitted in the courts a few months ago indicated that he was not well, but no heed was paid, which aggravated the problem.”
Muhammad Rafiullah, a spokesman for Punjab’s chief minister, said that Sharif was receiving the best medical care available.
“Every possible measure is being taken to provide medical help for Nawaz,” he said.

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

Updated 04 July 2020

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

  • Young volunteers tackle tough terrain, pandemic myths in isolated northern region

JAKARTA: A group of tech-savvy young locals in Indonesia’s northern North Halmahera regency is spreading awareness about the dangers of COVID-19 in remote corners of the archipelago at a time when bureaucracy has impeded a rapid response to the pandemic.

The Relawan Merah Putih, or Red and White Volunteers, includes a multimedia expert, university students, lecturers, civil servants and a web developer in Tobelo, the main city of North Halmahera in North Maluku province, about 2,500 km from the capital Jakarta.

The city is located on Halmahera island, part of the Maluku Islands, Indonesia’s fabled Spice Islands on the northeastern part of the sprawling archipelago.

Stevie Recaldo Karimang, a 28-year-old freelance photographer and videographer, told Arab News that he set up the group after social restrictions introduced to counter the pandemic put him out of business. 

He quickly developed a website on the pandemic and created online flyers and audiovisual materials that he and 31 other volunteers distributed on social media platforms and messaging apps to educate the public about the pandemic soon after the first cases in Indonesia were confirmed in Jakarta in early March.

“We translated the information we took from the national COVID-19 task force into the market language spoken here, which is a mixture of Indonesian and the local dialect, to make it more understandable for the locals,” Karimang said.

The group also used a drone to issue public warnings against mass gatherings.

“The drone helped to remind people not to form a crowd when social restrictions were enforced. We attached a flashlight to the device to catch the crowd’s attention, and we were able to dismiss such gatherings.”

But the volunteers shifted their efforts to rural areas after the first coronavirus case in North Maluku province was confirmed on March 23.

Jubhar Mangimbulude, a microbiology expert at Halmahera University and the group’s adviser, said the team had visited 30 isolated villages out of 196 townships in the regency, which is home to 161 million people.

“We reached one village after hours of driving over rough terrain. We have to use four-wheel-drive vehicles because along the way we may have to cross a river where the bridge is damaged,” he told Arab News.

Mangimbulude said that many villagers were unaware of the pandemic and only knew from TV that a dangerous virus was spreading quickly and infecting people. He was glad to find that no COVID-19 cases had been detected among the villagers.

But he acknowledged that misinformation was rife and said that he had to debunk myths about “how alcohol could be used to prevent the disease.”

“The villagers heard that the virus can be killed with heat in one’s body, and since drinking alcohol can warm the body, they encouraged their children and elders to drink a local alcoholic beverage made of fermented sugar palm fruit,” Mangimbulude said.

Fellow volunteer Oscar Berthomene, a local civil servant, said that the group was able to move faster than the regency administration whose bureaucracy slowed down the response to the pandemic.

“I have support from my supervisor, and we were able to help their activities with cars to allow them to move around,” he told Arab News.

The regency has about 18 percent of the 953 cases in the province, which make up about 1.5 percent of the national total of 62,142 as of Saturday.