ISLAMABAD - The continuous incarceration seems to be easing on Dr Asim Hussain, former federal minister and a close aide to former president Asif Ali Zardari, facing “corruption and terrorism charges”, as the Canadian government has requested Pakistani authorities to repatriate him to Canada, being their national, on humanitarian grounds, The Nation has reliably learnt.

The sufferings of the “political prisoner” may start vanishing in days to come given the “political expediency” shown by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, apparently in view of the Panama Papers leaks controversy, not to further affront his “not-so-inimical” political opponents, especially the Pakistan People’s Party leadership, so that it could muster support in case it faces tricky situation in the future in the wake of “unexpected outcomes from a host of troubles” haunting the government.

The Sindh High Court granted Asif bail along with three other leaders on November 1 in a case related to treating and harbouring alleged terrorists of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and gangsters of Lyari at his hospital after Special Public Prosecutor Ayaz Tunio did not oppose the bail plea on medical grounds.

Dr Asim and others, were, however, barred from leaving the country without the permission of the trial court. Advocate Sajid Mehboob Shaikh, the counsel for Rangers, however, opposed the bail applications, arguing that the hit men, who were wounded in the shootouts with the law-enforcement agencies, were brought to the hospital run by Dr Asim, for treatment, but he could not convince the court.

Dr Asim has been in jail since 2015 after Rangers picked him from his office in Clifton on August 26, 2015. He had the portfolio of the Sindh Higher Education Commission chairman with the status of a provincial minister. Political observers believe that the federal government took a lenient position in Dr Asim’s case after it mired in the Panama controversy.

High Commission of Canada in Pakistan Perry John Calderwood has expressed his concern over the wellbeing and the safety of the Canadian national, and has requested the ministry of foreign affairs to look into the family members’ request for Dr Asim’s repatriation to Canada on humanitarian grounds, documents available with The Nation reveal.

According to the foreign ministry documents, the Canadian Parliamentary Secretary on Foreign Affairs called on Pakistani High Commission in Canada on 25th July 2016 and requested for favourable consideration to repatriate Dr Asim to Canada, being their citizen. For the purpose, he stated, that their government was aware of the high-profile nature of the case and have no intention of interfering in the internal matters of Pakistan but they requested only on humanitarian grounds.

A letter written by the Canadian Consular Services in Islamabad to the Pakistani authorities said: “The High Commission of Canada in Islamabad has learned that Dr Asim Hussain is reportedly not feeling very well and suffering from depression and psychological problems. A medical report in this regard has already been filed in the court by the concerned medical board. The family of Dr Asim Hussain has asked the High Commission of Canada to submit a request to the concerned (Pakistani) authorities that Dr Asim Hussain should be kept in the hospital to ensure that he is being given appropriate treatment. Dr Asim Hussain fears that he will suffer mistreatment, as was the case when he was first detained by the authorities, if he is not kept in the hospital. The High Commission of Canada is highly concerned about the wellbeing and safety of the Canadian national in Pakistan and would like to request that the esteemed ministry looks into the request from the family members on humanitarian grounds.”

On the request of the Canadian authorities, the Pakistan government has already granted consular access to Dr Asim Hussain. The documents show that on September 7, 2015, the government of Canada through its High Commission in Islamabad had requested the ministry of foreign affairs ‘to arrange for an appropriate permission for a “Consular Access” for Ms Marie Kenny, Counsellor (Management) & Consul, from the concerned authorities to visit Dr Asim Hussain, a Canadian citizen, detained under “Preventive Detention” in Karachi by Sindh Rangers.”

Subsequently, the ministry of foreign affairs on June 22, 2016, through a letter, informed the High Commission of Canada in Islamabad that the concerned authorities have allowed consular access to Dr Asim on June 27, 2016. The High Commission was asked to contact the Sindh Home Department in order to proceed further in the matter.

On the other hand, the sources in the ministry of interior told The Nation that the ministry contests repatriation of Dr Asim to Canada. “The ministry opines that the instant request does not cover under the category of civil internee because he (Dr Asim) is under-trial or under investigation in terrorism act/corruption,” the sources said.

When contacted, officials at Canadian High Commission in Islamabad declined to comment on the development. The Consular (Political) at the HC said, “The High Commission cannot comment on consular cases due to the Privacy Act”.