With nation states in tow and the fate of millions on the line it is often easy to forget that politicians – like the rest of us – are creatures of flesh and blood. They age, get ill, and have personal needs like everyone else. While most of us find it difficult to divorce the political personality of a politician, and the ideology they represent, from their personal self, it is necessary to make that distinction.

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Nawaz Sharif’s physical condition, and the medical attention that he is receiving, has become a subject of contention in recent days. Nawaz Sharif’s family claims that the former prime minister is not receiving the proper care he needs, especially given his past medical record. More worryingly, they claim that Nawaz’s doctors are not allowed to see him, even when he suffers from medical complications. Meanwhile the Punjab government has constituted a six-member special medical board for examination/management of the health of former prime minister, but at the same time it clashes with his family over whether he is allowed access to his doctor – and if he deserves that access or not.

Beyond this official debate rages a more insidious one on social media, where people opposed to Nawaz Sharif’s politics say that he deserves the pain he is receiving – it being part of the parcel of incarceration. They say no other prisoner receives special treatment, why should Nawaz receive any different.

While one can understand where their need for equality stems from, the government must not get embroiled in this matter. It needs to compassionate and caring – rather than cold and mechanical. Nawaz Sharif may be simple prisoner, but he remains an eminently important politician with a massive support nationwide – allowing his health to deteriorate in prison is something the government should strive to avoid at all costs. More than that, it should aim to be humane above all else.