LAHORE: PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah Khan was released from prison on Thursday afternoon after the Lahore High Court issued a written verdict about grant of bail to him in a drug trafficking case which pointed out various contradictions in contents of the FIR lodged by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF).
In his verdict, Justice Chaudhry Mushtaq Ahmad also conceded to an argument from the petitioner that the narcotics case against the opposition leader was a result of “political victimisation”.
Mr Khan’s legal team had taken the plea that the case was registered because the petitioner was a vocal member of an opposition party and had been criticising the government’s policies.
“Though such an argument at the bail stage is not attached much weight for the reason that deeper appreciation at the stage of bail is not permissible, nor desirable,” said the judge.
“However, in the context of petitioner being a vocal political leader of an opposition party, this aspect of the case could not be ignored as political victimisation in our country is an open secret,” he said, adding that the law was also well settled that seriousness of allegation was not a ground for refusal of bail if on merits it was found that prosecution’s case was doubtful as benefit of doubt always went to the suspect even at the stage of bail.
Judge points out flaws in the drug trafficking case against the PML-N leader
Justice Ahmad said: “Incarceration of accused before conviction in cases of doubtful nature is never approved by the courts.”
He also rejected the explanation of the prosecution regarding non-preparation of recovery memo at the Ravi Toll Plaza, the place where Mr Khan was arrested. The prosecution had argued that the documents could not be prepared on the scene as people passing in their vehicles through the plaza had started gathering and the suspects along with the “case property” were taken to a police station.
“In the presence of a raiding party consisting of more than 20 members there was hardly an occasion not to conduct proceedings at the place of recovery. So explanation furnished for not conducting proceedings at the spot was neither plausible nor convincing,” read the nine-page verdict.
Justice Ahmad said in cases of recovery of narcotics, proceedings at the place of recovery were generally conducted in order to ensure fairness and transparency so that doubts might not be entertained by the public regarding actions taken by an investigating agency.
He observed that as per the FIR, the petitioner was involved in operating a network for smuggling narcotics, but the investigating officer did not seek the suspect’s physical remand in order to investigate the alleged network when he was produced before a magisterial court the day after his arrest.
“It indicates that the investigating agency was not interested in unearthing the activities of the petitioner regarding smuggling of narcotics,” observed the judge.
He said that lapses in the prosecution’s case that were visible on the surface of the record included non-preparation of recovery memos on the spot, non-investigation of suspect’s involvement in running a drug smuggling network and sending only 20 grams of contraband for testing out of a total of 15kg of heroin allegedly recovered from the petitioner.
Justice Ahmad said the lapses indicated prima facie that guilt of the petitioner needed to be investigated further and his case called for detailed inquiry. The judge also noted that the prosecution had not challenged the bail granted to co-suspects in the case.
In Islamabad, meanwhile, the ANF’s chief prosecutor Raja Inam Ameen Minhas said the force would file an appeal before the Supreme Court, seeking the cancellation of Mr Khan’s bail.
Separately, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan during a press briefing sought to counter some of the points raised by Justice Ahmad in his verdict.
“The investigating officer in the case did not ask for physical remand of Sanaullah and the other accused persons because when a suspect is caught red-handed […] a judicial remand is needed instead of physical remand,” she remarked.
Answering a question, she said the sample size sent for testing was always small because the entire 15-20kg could not be sent for testing.
Talking to a group of journalists at his residence after being released from prison, Rana Sanaullah Khan appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to initiate a judicial probe into the alleged recovery of 15kg heroin from his possession.
Holding a copy of the holy Quran, the PML-N leader said he had been implicated in a false case.
He said he faced hardships for a full six months as he was kept under pathetic conditions. Had people like federal Minister Shehryar Afridi, Dr Awan and even Prime Minister Imran Khan faced such circumstances they would have quit politics altogether.
Mr Khan alleged that ANF had presented its own employees as witnesses against him in the case. Such people would not go against their own department because they would want to save their jobs.
“Where is the network that I have been running, from Afghanistan to Lahore and Faisalabad and where are the people of such a network,” he asked.
The PML-N leader claimed that his wife had been asked through unknown calls to leave Pakistan.
A judge, Arshad Masood, was ready to grant him bail about four months ago. However, he was transferred on a WhatsApp order, he alleged.
Malik Asad and Syed Irfan Raza in Islamabad and Mohammed Saleem in Faisalabad also contributed to the report
Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2019