Almost six months on, Sana out on bail in drug case

December 25, 2019

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Ramsha Jahangir
Ramsha Jahangir

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday granted post-arrest bail to opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Rana Sanaullah Khan in a drug case filed by the Anti-Narcotics Force.

Through a short order, Justice Chaudhry Mushtaq Ahmad allowed the bail petition “subject to furnishing two surety bonds of Rs1 million each”.

The court had reserved its verdict a day before after lawyers representing the petitioner and the ANF concluded their arguments on the bail petition.

The prosecution had questioned the maintainability of the bail plea, arguing that the offence was non-bailable and that the onus to prove innocence lay on the defence. It also asked the court to issue a directive for the conclusion of the trial within a month.

ANF chief says evidence against opposition MNA will be produced in court after indictment

While Mr Khan, also a member of the National Assembly, is likely to be released on Thursday (tomorrow) — due to the public holiday on account of Quaid-i-Azam’s birth anniversary today — an ANF official told a private news channel that the LHC order would be challenged in the Supreme Court as it was not in the domain of a high court to grant bail in such cases.

The courtroom was packed with PML-N lawyers and workers when Justice Ahmad announced the decision at around 2:10pm.

Talking to media, Mr Khan’s wife, who was also present in the courtroom, thanked Almighty Allah on the release of her husband and lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan for what she claimed implicating her husband in a false case.

“Who will be held accountable for the six months my husband has spent in jail,” she asked.

Later in the day in Islamabad, Major General Arif Malik, the ANF director general, blamed the lawyers of Mr Khan for using delaying tactics. He told reporters at a drug burning event that evidence could not be produced in court until the accused was indicted.

He said as soon as the accused was charged, the evidence against him would be presented in court.

On July 1, a special team of the ANF had arrested Rana near the Ravi toll plaza when he was heading to Lahore from his native city Faisalabad. It claimed to have recovered 15 kilogrammes of heroin from his vehicle and a 9mm pistol with 23 bullets.

The ANF had also arrested Rana’s driver and his security guards. They were already released on bail, but charged with attacking the personnel and obstructing them from performing their official duty.

The PML-N leader was booked by the ANF under Section 9 (C) of the 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. As per the section in question, if the quantity of the narcotic exceeds 10kg the punishment shall not be less than life imprisonment.

According to the content of the FIR, when asked about the narcotics, Rana admitted the possession of heroin, pointed toward a blue-coloured suitcase concealed behind his seat.

It said Rana himself unzipped the suitcase, removed a plastic cover in it and pointed towards a bag filled with heroin.

During the recovery process, it said, the security guards of the prime suspect attacked the ANF team and tried to get him released. However, the personnel overpowered the suspects and shifted them to their Cantonment office.

Next day, a judicial magistrate sent Rana and other suspects to jail on judicial remand as the prosecution chose not to seek their physical remand.

The case also hit by a rare controversy when a trial judge was stopped from working in the middle of Aug 28 proceedings on a bail petition of Khan.

“I have just received a message on my WhatsApp. I have been stopped from working and my services have been repatriated to the Lahore High Court,” Judge Masood Arshad had told the defence and prosecution when he returned to his courtroom after a one-hour break.

Two days later, a notification by the LHC bearing date of Aug 28 surfaced showing repatriation of the judge. The federal law ministry had sought repatriation of the judge alleging issues of his integrity.

The duty judges continued to adjourn the trial proceedings without any progress till the appointment of District and Sessions Judge Shakir Hassan as regular presiding judge on Nov 5.

The trial court had dismissed two bail petitions of Khan.

The second bail plea was filed on the ground of CCTV footage retrieved from the cameras of the Punjab Safe City Authority showing movement of Rana’s vehicle from the time of his arrest and arrival at the ANF office.

The defence counsel took the plea that the arrest of Rana at the Ravi toll plaza allegedly took place at 3:25pm while the footage showed the vehicle over 14.5 km away at Canal Road at 3:35pm.

The legal team of the opposition leader argued that the video record contradicted the whole prosecution story as events narrated in the FIR were not possible humanly.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2019