Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) and Narcotics Control Shehryar Afridi on Wednesday said that neither he nor Prime Minister Imran Khan had arrested PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah, adding that there had been "no interference" or political victimisation in the PML-N leader's legal proceedings.
Afridi's remarks come a day after the Lahore High Court granted bail to Sanaullah in a drug case filed against him by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF). The court also ordered Sanaullah to submit two surety bonds of Rs1 million each.
Ahead of his press conference, Afridi in a statement announced that the government will challenge Sanaullah's bail in the Supreme Court. He said that they had still not been provided with the LHC order, adding that Sanaullah's bail had been granted through a verbal order.
"We will wait for the court's written order to present our stance," he wrote. Afridi, however, said that as the media had issued its verdict before the court's written order, the government wanted to take the nation into confidence on the matter.
"We respect the court decisions and will continue to do so. Others should also respect the court decisions, not just decisions in your favour."
He said that some segments of the media had given the impression that the PML-N leader had been acquitted.
In a fiery press conference that followed, Afridi said Sanaullah had been granted bail, not acquitted, adding that a perception had been created that the case was weak.
"All evidence was submitted to the court within 17 days of the arrest," Afridi said, adding that he had seen the evidence with his own eyes.
Following Sanaullah's arrest in July, Afridi had said the ANF had "video footage" of the PML-N Punjab president before it moved to arrest him.
"One thing is being connected to me — video, video, video.
"In the first press conference, with the DG ANF [...] I referenced some footage. It was presented in a strange way."
In response to a query over the "footages" in question, Afridi said: "Look at all my press conferences [...] wherever I spoke about the videos I said [we have the] footages. In 17 days, all things were provided."
Afridi said his reference to videos had "repeatedly been made an issue", adding that this was the job of the prosecution in courts.
"It is not my job or yours, why should we be the judges or the jury. This is the job of the courts. The case will be presented in the courts, where a trial [will take place].
"We will take this case to its logical end. Keeping all legal procedures at the forefront, we will read the order and will go all out," he added.
At the outset of his press conference, Afridi said: "Did the prime minister arrest him (Sanaullah)? Did I? [...] certainly not. We did not interfere in his legal proceedings, there is no victimisation at any level.
"Time will prove this. This is the season of bails.
"Remember that the Anti-Narcotics Force is a professional force. We need to strengthen institutions, Shehryar will come and go, rulers will come and go; the real thing is the institutions of Pakistan."
'Video footage is with us'
Following Sanaullah's arrest in July, addressing a press conference alongside ANF chief Major General Arif Malik, Afridi had said that Sanaullah was arrested after his three-week surveillance and the ANF had complete and sufficient evidence to prove his involvement in the drug business.
The minister said the PML-N leader had been arrested on the basis of a lead from a person who had been arrested at Faisalabad airport.
"All the movements of Rana Sanaullah Sahib and his vehicle were observed and gauged at all levels. Video footage and other things are with us," the minister had said, while refusing to give further details saying they might harm investigation and key witnesses. He had said all the evidence would be presented before courts.
Rana Sanaullah's arrest
The former Punjab law minister was arrested by the ANF Lahore team on July 1 while he was travelling from Faisalabad to Lahore near the Ravi Toll Plaza on motorway.
ANF claimed to have seized 15kg heroin from his vehicle. A special team of the force had also arrested five others, including the driver and security guards of the PML-N leader.
The first information report (FIR) was lodged 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.
The Lahore High Court granted Sanaullah bail on Tuesday after almost six months in detention.
Evidence will be presented when trial starts: Awan
Commenting on the bail granted to Sanaullah, government's chief spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan on Tuesday said the ANF will present evidence against the former provincial minister once the trial of the case begins.
She suggested that the "influential" accused in the case had used "resources" which led to judges recusing themselves from hearing the case.
Once a judge was appointed, Sanaullah's lawyers "created obstacles" in the commencement of the trial by using different excuses, Awan alleged.
"The trial of the case has not yet started. ANF will present evidence once the trial begins," she said.
Awan said the LHC has set a "unique precedent" by granting Sanaullah bail, but added that the concerned minister would comment on the decision.
"What the court judgements are saying is being heard by you and seen by us," she said without elaborating.