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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Thursday denied protective bail to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Salman Rafique.

The court rejected their petitions observing that they came from Lahore to seek transitory bail whereas apparently there was no hurdle that may bar their access to the competent court of law.

The petitioner’s counsel argued before the court that NAB had served a call-up notice to former railways minister Saad Rafique and requested the court to grant a 15-day protective bail citing the by-polls scheduled for October 14 in his constituency.

Justice Farooq says the court is not responsible for the by-elections that one of the petitioners is contesting

Justice Farooq remarked that the court was not responsible for the by-elections, adding Saad Rafique had addressed a press conference in Lahore on Wednesday before he reached Islamabad.

The bench inquired the counsel why Saad and Salman Rafique did not approach the Lahore High Court for protective bail as the LHC was the appropriate forum for it. The counsel replied that the petitioners found out about NAB’s call-up notice after arriving in Islamabad. When the judges said that LHC’s Rawalpindi bench was at a short distance from IHC, the counsel said that their clients could be arrested if they returned to Lahore or any other bench without protective bail.

Subsequently, they requested the court to grant protective bail for two weeks. The court wondered if the petitioners would go to Lahore on foot or a bicycle that they were asking for so many days.

Next, the bench turned down the request and dismissed the petitions.

The two brothers had left the courtroom before the judgement came. Saad and Salman Rafique through their counsel Amjad Pervaiz and Kamran Murtaza had filed petitions in IHC on Wednesday fearing possible arrest at the hands of NAB. They nominated the NAB chairman and director general at the NAB complex in Lahore respondents.

While referring to the arrest of Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif, Saad Rafique said that the NAB “chairman and officials subordinate to him are acting like an agent for the present regime”. While referring to the same event but with a little change, his brother stated that the “bureau is abusing the process of law for political victimisation”.

Before the general elections in 2018, the counsel stated in the petition, one of the petitioners was served with a call-up notice on March 20 for an inquiry against management / developers of Paragon City Private Limited and others. In compliance, he said, the requisite information and documents were submitted along with a written reply on March 28. The counsel said Saad Rafique also appeared in person before the Combined Investigation Team on the same date and extended full cooperation and divulged whatever information was within his knowledge. While leaving, he said, the petitioner was directed to furnish information and submit more documents which were submitted accordingly on April 5.

The counsel said that the categorical stand of the petitioner was that he had neither been a director nor a shareholder of Paragon City Private Limited or had never had any say in its affairs. Under the garb of the inquiry, he added, Saad Rafique 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.

The petition said that the petitioner was again served with a call-up notice on June 25 for an inquiry against officials / management of Punjab Land Development Company although the petitioner has never had any concern with the said matter. “The fishing expedition against the petitioner was prompted by mala fide intention and political motivation to damage the political image of the petitioner to influence the outcome of the general election,” the petition read. It added that contrary to the standard norm of inquiry, NAB used to release the call-up notice to media to create sensation and to give an opportunity to the political rivals to arrange talk shows for his character assassination. Despite the non-availability of an iota of evidence to show any concern of petitioners with the Paragon project, he said, NAB officials are bent on dragging both the brothers in the affairs of the company with mala fide intention.

The petitioners had prayed the court to direct the NAB chairman to intimate them about pending inquiry or investigation in the cases and grant them two weeks in case of issuance of warrants of arrest to enable them to approach the court of competent jurisdiction for bail in accordance with law. They had also sought protective bail.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2018