Former PM Nawaz Sharif, in his response to a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking treason charges against him, has termed the allegations levelled against him as "unimaginable" and questioned how his "patriotism" could be doubted in the light of his services to the country.
Sharif has been accused of treason for allegedly trying to defame state institutions through an interview to Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida, while the same accusation has been leveled against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for allegedly not honouring his oath of office by disclosing the minutes of a National Security Council (NSC) meeting to Nawaz.
As a three-judge bench headed by Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi resumed hearing the case today, Sharif, Abbasi and Almeida's lawyers furnished their clients' formal responses to the allegations made against them.
"A grave allegation such as treason is unimaginable [for me]," Nawaz stated in his response.
"This raises many questions in my mind. Are the millions of Pakistani people who made me the PM traitors too? Have the country's institutions and agencies failed that they did not know of my treason. Is someone who rids the country of terrorism a traitor?" he asked in the written statement.
"The country's biggest court declared the measures of a dictator as unconstitutional, and asked a treason case to be filed against him. Where is that dictator now? He has been making a mockery of the judicial system for how long?"
Furthermore, Nawaz argued that "the petition shows a complete lack of good faith" and that "it has been filed only for political sensationalism and merits to be dismissed with exemplary costs".
Abbasi, who had succeeded Nawaz in the PM House following his ouster last year, "vehemently denied" the allegations made against him by the petitioner in his own response, saying that his meeting with Nawaz mentioned in the petition was "purely concerning the issues relating to the PML-N" and that matters of the NSC were not discussed in it.
He told the bench that the allegations against him "are unfounded and based on pure assumptions and surmises", and urged the court to dismiss the petition.
Meanwhile, Almeida, in the response submitted in court on his behalf by lawyer Ahmed Rauf, defended his interview with Sharif, saying he had quoted the three-time former PM "verbatim".
In the statement, the court was told that the contents of the journalist's interview with Nawaz were "written verbatim" and that "no malice or ulterior motive can be attributed" to him. It was further denied that "he [Almeida] was taken to Multan [to interview Sharif] through a special airplane". The court was told that Almeida had, in fact, travelled by road to interview the former prime minister.
The statement said: "The petitioner's unsubstantiated claims reek of malice and ill-will towards" Almeida and that "they have knowingly led astray this Honourable Court from the facts [...] to suit their own motives".
The statement added that "the petitioner has taken one statement out of context while ignoring the entire news article, which includes rather important public interest statements and has to be read as a whole."
Furthermore, it was mentioned that Almeida "is a patriotic journalist who has been writing in the daily Dawn on matters of public importance for years and is under a Constitutional duty to apprise the nation of the views of their public leaders".
The 'treason' case against Sharif, Abbasi
Soon after the publication of Sharif's interview, Indian media had blown up on one of his quoted remarks and termed it an 'admission' on part of the former prime minister that non-state actors from Pakistan were involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The NSC, which met soon after the interview was published, had issued a statement saying: "The participants [of the NSC meeting] observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions."
It is pertinent to mention that the NSC statement had not named Sharif while addressing the controversy around the 'misleading' comments about the Mumbai attack.
Soon after the NSC meeting, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had in a press conference clarified that the NSC had in fact condemned the “misreporting” (of Sharif's remarks) and not his party’s supreme leader’s statement.
However, Sharif had rejected the NSC statement, describing it as "painful and regrettable" and "not based on facts".