By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistan's ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday flew to London for treatment following a bitter legal battle with the government.
An air ambulance of Qatar Airways carrying Sharif took off from an airport in northeastern Lahore city on Tuesday morning. Shehbaz Sharif, his younger brother and opposition leader, and the family doctor also accompanied him.
Footage aired on local broadcaster Geo News showed a heavily-guarded convoy taking Sharif to the airport.
The channel also showed Sharif's family members, including Maryam Nawaz, his daughter and political heir, saying farewell to the three-time premier.
Still image aired on Geo Tv showed a visibly weary Sharif attired in black pants and coat, boarding the air ambulance with the help of Shehbaz Sharif.
Maryam Aurungzeb, a spokesperson for Sharif's center-right Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), told reporters that the ex-premier might fly to the U.S. after initial treatment in London due to complicated nature of his disease.
The former premier, suffering from acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets.
His departure followed a bitter legal battle with the government of his arch political rival, Premier Imran Khan that sought deposition of a surety bond of over Rs 7 billion (some $50 million) from Sharif family.
But the Lahore High Court last week granted a four-week permission to the three-time premier to fly abroad declaring the government’s demand for a surety bond illegal.
Sharif served as prime minister in 1990-1992, 1997-1999 and 2013-2017, unable to complete even a single five-year term. His two previous governments were dismissed over corruption charges and through bloodless military coups in 1992 and 1999.
In July 2017, he was disqualified by the Supreme Court over the Panama Papers scandal, which also led to the filing of three corruption cases. Not long after, the top court also barred him from holding the leadership of his party.
The former premier, who has twice undergone open heart surgeries, has been convicted in two of three corruption cases, and exonerated in the third.
In the first case, Sharif, with his daughter Maryam and son-in-law, was sentenced last July to 10 years in jail in a corruption case by an accountability court in Islamabad, but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended the conviction in September 2018.
In the second case, known as Al Azizia, in December 2018, Sharif got seven years in jail for owning assets beyond known income sources. The IHC suspended the jail term and granted bail to Sharif for eight weeks on medical grounds late last month.