The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday ordered Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to appear before the court on May 30 in a contempt case filed against him for an "anti-judiciary speech" made in April.
The minister was unable to attend today's hearing as he is in Saudi Arabia, Iqbal's counsel Azam Nazir Tarar told the three-member bench.
Expressing scepticism at Tarar's claim, Justice Atir Mehmood asked if the minister "got up in the morning and suddenly decided to go for Umrah".
The lawyer assured the court that Iqbal would be present in the next hearing.
The minister could not appear in the last hearing as well as he was undergoing treatment after being shot earlier this month.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority's representative submitted the transcript of Iqbal's alleged defamatory speech to the court.
A petition against the interior minister was filed in the LHC after he made a speech in a seminar last month where he had criticised Chief Justice Saqib Nisar for allegedly levelling baseless allegations against him, saying that the latter had “no right to name-call people”.
Iqbal was referring to remarks made by Justice Nisar during a case in which the vice-chancellor of Lahore College for Women University, Prof Uzma Qureshi, was suspended. During the hearing, the chief justice had said that he knew Iqbal's role in Qureshi's appointment.
“You [Justice Nisar] must issue me a charge sheet. If you have evidence, produce it before me. But enough is enough," the minister had challenged.
Witnesses appear in Tallal Chaudhry contempt case
A contempt of court case against Minister of State for Interior Tallal Chaudhry was heard by a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, for the former's "contemptuous speeches" against the judiciary.
In January, during his speech at PML-N's rally in Jarranwala, Chaudhry had said: "There was an era when the Kaabah was full of idols. Today, the judiciary, which is the country's highest institution, is also full of PCO [Provisional Constitution Order] idols."
During today's hearing, the court recorded statements of two witnesses produced by the defence. One of the witnesses, Israr Ahmed, claimed that he had known Chaudhry for a long time and was also present at the Jaranwala rally, where the controversial speech was made and swore that "as long as [he] was present [at the rally], Tallal Chaudhry had not made any remarks against judges or the judiciary".
He was reprimanded by Justice Gulzar, however, when he asked the court's permission to make a "voluntary comment" in the "country's top court".
"This is a courtroom, not a rally," Justice Gulzar told him. "You have not been summoned here to make a speech."
Justice Gulzar also reminded Ahmed that the case "was not against him".
Witnesses for Pemra could not appear during today's hearing due to a case in the LHC, the court was told.
Chaudhry's counsel urged the court to adjourn the hearing until next week. The request was turned down by the bench and the hearing was adjourned until June 19.