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Model Town JIT granted permission to interrogate Nawaz Sharif in jail

Updated March 14, 2019

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Since it was Justice Malik who had convicted Nawaz Sharif (pictured) in the aforesaid reference, it was mandatory for the JIT to seek the  approval of his court before questioning Sharif. — Dawn/File
Since it was Justice Malik who had convicted Nawaz Sharif (pictured) in the aforesaid reference, it was mandatory for the JIT to seek the approval of his court before questioning Sharif. — Dawn/File

An accountability court in Islamabad on Thursday granted a joint investigation team (JIT) permission to interrogate incarcerated PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif in connection with the infamous Model Town incident of 2014.

Mohammad Iqbal, a deputy superintendent of Punjab police (DSP), had filed an application before accountability judge Justice Mohammad Arshad Malik seeking his permission to interrogate Sharif in Kot Lakhpat Jail, where he is currently serving his seven-year sentence after being convicted in the Al-Azizia reference.

Since it was Justice Malik who convicted Sharif in the aforesaid reference, it was mandatory for the JIT to seek prior approval of his court before questioning Sharif, who was prime minister when the Model Town incident happened.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Mirza Usman opposed the JIT's application, suggesting that the investigation officer should instead approach the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to obtain such permission.

Following brief arguments, Justice Malik discarded NAB's objection and allowed DSP Iqbal to interrogate Sharif.

Model Town incident

On June 17, 2014, 14 people were killed and 100 others injured after police launched an assault on Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) supporters gathered outside the residence of its leader, Tahirul Qadri, in Model Town, Lahore.

Read more: Youth, women among seven killed in PAT supporters' clash with police

A subsequent judicial inquiry report on the incident pointed fingers at then Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah and the Punjab police for what had transpired that day.

From a reading of the conclusions of Justice Baqar Najafi's report, it is understandable why the provincial government fought tooth and nail to prevent its release.

It is also understandable why its publication was preceded by a lengthy press conference by Rana Sanaullah in which he sought to highlight the report's flaws, including what he called its reliance on "secondary evidence" and it, therefore, having no legal status whatsoever.

He kept referring to it as "defective", and the Punjab government made sure the Justice Najafi report was accompanied online by a one-man committee's report on a review of its flaws.

Delineating the chronology of events, Justice Najafi reported that then Punjab minister for parliamentary affairs Rana Sanaullah seemed to have already decided on June 16, 2014 that PAT Chairman Tahirul Qadri would not be allowed any opportunity to hold a long march from Rawalpindi to Lahore, as the latter had planned to do on June 23, 2014.

This single-minded determination of the minister to thwart Qadri's political objectives ended up influencing the police's heavy-handed strategy in dealing with the situation, which resulted in the needless loss of lives the very next day, Justice Najafi argued in the report.

Though Justice Najafi himself did not affix responsibility for the tragedy, he invited readers to review the facts and circumstances and "easily fix the responsibility of the unfortunate Minhajul Quran incident" themselves.

In Sep 2018, a Lahore High Court (LHC) full bench had rejected two sets of appeals challenging a trial court’s decision to not summon 12 people, including Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, in connection to the complaint moved by PAT.

In Jan 2019, the Punjab government had reconstituted a new five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the 2014 Model Town incident.