LAHORE: The legal team of former law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan on Saturday boycotted trial proceedings of drug case in protest against ban on media coverage and restriction on lawyers’ entrance to a special court for Control of Narcotics Substance (CNS) by the police.
A police contingent deployed outside the courtroom manhandled lawyers and did not permit journalists to attend the proceedings.
A police official claimed that Presiding Judge Shakir Hussain had banned media persons’ entry to the court.
Personnel in civvies made announcements on megaphones as if they were getting the way cleared when Mr Khan was brought to the court by the jail officials.
However, the purpose of using megaphones was to create a deafening noise to make the journalists unable to have a conversation with the PML-N leader outside the courtroom.
For quite some time the police personnel had adopted the practice of making announcements on megaphones to ‘clear the way’ on each appearance of leaders of the opposition facing different cases to ensure they did not talk to the media.
Khan’s legal team comprising Zahid Bokhari, Azam Nazir Tarar and Farhad Ali Shah went to the rostrum only to inform the judge that they will not argue the case as media was not allowed to cover the proceedings.
The lawyers boycotted the proceedings and left the court.
“We will not resume arguments unless media is allowed to cover the proceedings,” Mr Bokhari announced talking to reporters outside the court.
“How can the police bar media and lawyers from attending open court proceedings?” he questioned the police conduct adding that what was there to hide.
“What the government is afraid of? What does it want to hide?” asked Mr Bokhari.
He complained that the police humiliated the lawyers and mistreated them without any reason.
“The police even misbehaved with my female associate and dragged male associates from neck ties,” Bokhari told the media. He also questioned deployment of heavy contingent of the police outside the court.
“Are we dacoits or we carrying bombs?” he angrily asked the authorities.
Mr Bokhari claimed that the government did not want to let people know the facts of the case as it was a fabricated one.
Mr Tarar said people had already been questioning authenticity of the case against the former law minister and the government was making it more controversial.
“If police are to regulate the court proceedings, we are not going to become part of this,” he said and wondered that there had never been any ban on media or lawyers attending high profile cases before high courts and even the Supreme Court.
Earlier, the judge adjourned hearing of the case till Dec 14.
The Anti-Narcotics Force had arrested Mr Khan on July 1 with a recovery of 15-kg heroin. Next day, h was sent to jail on judicial remand by a local magistrate.
The FIR was lodged under section 9 (C) of Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997, which carries death penalty or life imprisonment or a jail-term that may extend to 14 years along with a fine up to Rs1 million.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2019