An accountability court was forced to adjourn the proceedings in a graft case against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar, after PML-N lawyers and supporters tried to forcibly enter the building and create mayhem.
Just as the accountability court judge, Justice Muhammad Bashir, entered his courtroom, a number of lawyers associated with the PML-N forced their way inside and surrounded the judge's bench, loudly complaining that they had been manhandled by security forces outside the court and prevented from entering the courtroom.
The lawyers threatened to hold up the hearing until action was taken against the police officials who had allegedly manhandled them outside the court.
As a result of the chaos, Justice Bashir decided to prematurely halt court proceedings for the day and asked both defendants to leave the courtroom and return for a hearing on October 19.
Once PML-N supporters and lawyers found out that the hearing had been adjourned, the crowd dispersed.
Imran Khan accuses PML-N of attacking the judiciary
Reacting to the situation, Imran Khan sent out a torrent of tweets accusing PML-N of attacking Pakistan’s judiciary.
“Today the PMLN attacked Pakistan's judiciary for the second time - today it was to protect the over Rs 30 b Sharifs' loot stashed abroad,” he tweeted.
He also claimed that Ahsan Iqbal’s “drama” over Rangers’ deployment at the Judicial Complex “was to leave the NAB judge unprotected.”
“Clearly PMLN is hell-bent on destroying all state institutions. People of Pakistan must be prepared to stand up and defend our state institutions,” he added.
Ending his tirade, Khan said that the destruction of state institutions means the disintegration of the state. He concluded, “This is the Sharif agenda which nation must counter.”
Interior ministry calls for detailed report of the incident
As she left the court, Maryam Nawaz spoke to media and asked the Interior Ministry to come up with a strategy to "keep such events from occurring in the future".
Taking notice of the incident, the interior ministry asked Islamabad Police to compile a detailed report of the incident.
One male and one female lawyer, as well as two female police officers and one lady constable, were injured in the scuffle outside the accountability court.
The police has recorded statements from the three injured police personnel and will file a report.
While talking to the media, PML-N's Talal Chaudhary dismissed reports that PML-N lawyers had tried to force their way into the court, saying: "PML-N workers did nothing, the incident happened due to overcrowding, that is it."
Who's responsible for security?
Since earlier this month, controversy has surrounded the security arrangements made for the Judicial Complex.
On Oct 2, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had lashed out at the Punjab Rangers after PML-N leaders, lawyers and supporters of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif were prevented from entering the accountability court for a hearing on that day by the paramilitary force's personnel.
In his statement to the media, Iqbal had said that whoever had asked Rangers to secure the Judicial Complex had “challenged the writ of the government". He had ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident.
At the time, it was said that neither the interior ministry nor the chief commissioner had ordered the Rangers to take up security of the Judicial Complex.
Following the episode, the paramilitary force had also withdrawn the personnel detailed to the security of Parliament House.
The Frontier Constabulary was subsequently ordered to take charge of parliament's security.
As a result of that move, Iqbal had sought an explanation from the director general of the Punjab Rangers. He had also inquired into the deployment of the force at the Federal Judicial Complex during the hearing of references against Nawaz Sharif "even though they had not been requested to do so."
Days after the episode, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor defended the Rangers’ actions, stating that written orders for their deployment had not been issued on all occasions in the past and verbal arrangements, as were allegedly made on that occasion, had been a norm.
Commenting on Iqbal’s statement regarding the Rangers “challenging the writ of the government”, Ghafoor had said that a soldier deployed to do his duty should be commended for discharging his responsibilities despite facing pressure to abandon his orders. He had explained that the army chief himself would not have been entertained in a similar situation by the posted personnel.
The report ordered to determine who was responsible for what happened on Oct 2 has yet to be submitted to the interior ministry.
Accountability court proceedings
On Oct 9, the accountability court in Islamabad had observed that Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain Safdar would be indicted on Oct 13 (today).
It had also ordered NAB to initiate the process of declaring Sharif’s sons — Hassan and Hussain — proclaimed offenders, for consistently skipping court proceedings in the graft references pertaining to the Park Lane flats and the establishment of offshore companies.
NAB has given them 30 days (from Oct 11) to appear in court.
During her three-day stay in Lahore, Maryam did not visit her Jati Umra residence but stayed at her son-in-law’s home on The Mall.
She did not meet party workers from NA-120, many of whom were expecting her to meet them and congratulate her for her mother’s victory in the by-election.
On Thursday, Maryam had left for Islamabad from Lahore on a special plane to appear before the trial court, along with her husband, who has recently come under fire from several quarters, including his own party, for demanding that the government ban the Ahmadi community from government and military service.
Although National Accountability Bureau Deputy Prosecutor General Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman had told Dawn that Sharif could not be indicted till he appeared in court, before today’s hearing, Sharif’s lawyer had claimed that he had the defendant’s permission to hear the court’s indictment verdict in his stead.