Rangers mysteriously seal off court trying ex-PM

Published October 3, 2017
INTERIOR Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Monday turns back after being told that the gate of the Federal Judicial Complex — where the trial of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was under way — was padlocked from inside and would not be opened.—Photo by writer
INTERIOR Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Monday turns back after being told that the gate of the Federal Judicial Complex — where the trial of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was under way — was padlocked from inside and would not be opened.—Photo by writer

ISLAMABAD: Dramatic scenes were witnessed outside the accountability court trying former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in three references after Rangers personnel mysteriously descended upon the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) and barred everyone — even their minister in charge — from entering the premises.

The court also issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Mr Sharif’s two sons and son-in-law on Monday.

After the ex-PM’s security detail, senior ministers and politicians were barred from entering the court premises, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal made a dramatic entry and walked up to the pedestrian gate of the complex, where he was informed that the door had been padlocked from inside.

He then asked to speak to the Rangers’ commanding officer, but no one came out to meet the minister at the main gate. This led him to deliver a fiery speech outside the court premises, where he openly expressed his displeasure.

Interior minister threatens to quit if culprits not unmasked; judge issues non-bailable warrants for Sharif’s sons & son-in-law

He said courts were “open spaces” that supporters of and lawyers for the defendant could freely enter, adding that closed trials were only conducted under martial law.

He recalled that the Islamabad chief commissioner had chalked out a plan to make sure certain journalists, lawyers and others could witness court proceedings, but said he was informed on Monday morning that “Rangers suddenly appeared and took over security of the building of their own accord”.

He maintained that the paramilitary force could only be deployed if requisitioned by the chief commissioner, adding that when the commissioner told Rangers officials that a security plan for the court was already in place, their commanding officer refused to accept the instructions. Instead, they insisted they would follow the orders they had been given and “would not allow anyone but Nawaz Sharif to enter”.

Mr Iqbal told mediapersons he was forced to take notice of the situation because “Rangers is a civil armed force subordinate to the Ministry of Interior. When they are deployed, they are supposed to work under the command of the civil administration”.

The interior minister vowed to hold an inquiry to ascertain whether Rangers had violated the civil administration’s orders and “challenged the writ of the government”.

He claimed that the Rangers’ commanding officer “disappeared” for 15 minutes when he (the minister) had asked to meet him to discuss the situation at the entrance to the court.

He also questioned whose orders was the paramilitary force following when the chief commissioner did not requisition their presence.

“Whoever did this would either face strict disciplinary action, or else I will resign as interior minister, because I cannot work as a puppet,” he declared, adding that no one would be allowed to challenge the writ of the civilian government.

“There cannot be a state within state,” he concluded.

Apart from Mr Iqbal and his state minister Talal Chaudhry, paramilitary officials also stopped senior politicians such as Raja Zafarul Haq, Pervaiz Rashid, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz, Irfan Siddiqui, MNAs Malik Abrar, Mian Javed Lateef, Maiza Hameed, Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz and former MNA Anjum Aqeel, as well as several law officers of the federal government.

But it was firebrand Mr Rafique who, on this occasion, tried to calm frayed nerves among the PML-N supporters.

“We have to sort this out at any cost, even if it means lowering our self-esteem. This country cannot afford a third martial law and we must prevent it,” he said.

Mr Rafique went even further, saying that things were being laid bare and the people of Pakistan could understand what sort of trial was being conducted. “It is an open court where everyone should be allowed to witness proceedings, but they have started an in-camera trial,” he said.

After the furore died down and the court concluded proceedings for the day, Rangers Brig Asif emerged from the FJC building and offered Daniyal Aziz, who was still lingering at the spot, access to the court. However, Mr Aziz refused the offer, saying there was no point.

Inside the courtroom, Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, and repeated bailable warrants for Maryam Nawaz.

Further proceedings were adjourned until Oct 9, when the court will decide whether to proceed against Mr Sharif separately or to conduct a joint trial of all the accused available.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2017

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