The Islamabad High Court on Thursday turned down petitions filed by senior PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique seeking protective bail and legal protection against alleged harassment by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani had taken up the petitions in which the two brothers expressed apprehensions about their arrest at the hands of NAB.
Saad and Salman had appeared in the court for the hearing, but left before the verdict on the petitions was announced.
The counsel for Saad informed the bench that the former minister had been served call-up notices regarding inquiries into different cases. He requested the court to grant a 15-day protective bail to his client, citing the by-polls scheduled for October 14 in Saad's constituency.
But the bench questioned why the PML-N leader had not approached the Lahore High Court, which was the appropriate forum for him (Saad), to seek protective bail.
"We are not responsible for the [by-] elections," Justice Farooq told the counsel, observing that Saad had addressed a press conference in Lahore on Wednesday before he reached Islamabad.
The lawyer argued that they found out about NAB's latest call-up notice after reaching Islamabad from Lahore.
At this, the justices reminded the counsel that the LHC's Rawalpindi bench was only 45 minutes away from the IHC.
But the lawyer expressed the fear that his client will be arrested if returns to Lahore at the moment. "We have reached here after a lot of difficulty," he added.
He suggested that the ex-minister will approach LHC once he has been granted protective bail by the IHC.
"Do you have to go there on foot or a bicycle that you are asking for so many days [in pre-arrest bail]?" the bench asked, before rejecting the petitions filed by the two brothers.
In the petitions filed through their counsel Amjad Pervaiz and Kamran Murtaza, Saad and Salman had named the NAB chairman and Lahore director general as respondents.
Citing the recent arrest of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, the ex-railways minister said the NAB chairman and officials subordinate to him were acting like an agent of the present regime. “The bureau is abusing the process of law for political victimisation,” said Salman.
Saad said he had been scrutinised by NAB several times. His petition read: “In the post-coup 1999 era, an inquiry was authorised against him [Saad Rafique] under NAB Ordinance 1999, during which his entire career was probed into at length. Yet, NAB could not find any wrongdoing against him.”
Notwithstanding immense pressure by the then military dictator, the petition added, the inquiry was closed and the inconvenience caused was regretted by NAB after probing the matter for three years.
Before the July 25, 2018 polls, it stated, the petitioner was served with call-up notice on March 20, 2018, on the subject of an inquiry against management/evelopers of Paragon City Private Limited, and others. In compliance, the petition added, the requisite information and documents were submitted along with a written reply on March 28.
The counsel said that Saad also appeared in person before a combined investigation team on the same date and extended full cooperation and divulged whatever information was within his knowledge. The petition said that the categorical stand of the petitioner was that he had neither been director nor a shareholder of Paragon City Private Limited or ever had any say in its affairs.
Under the garb of the inquiry, the petition added, Saad was interrogated regarding business income in the name of M/s Saadain Associate which he had been duly declaring in his income tax returns/wealth statement regularly.
It revealed that the petitioner was again served with a call-up notice on June 25 on the subject of an inquiry against officials/management of the Punjab Land Development Company, although he had never had any concern with the said matter.
The petitions requested the court to direct the NAB chairman to intimate them about cases pending inquiry or investigation and grant them two weeks time in case of issuance of warrants of arrest to enable them to approach the court of competent jurisdiction for bail in accordance with law.