LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday allowed one-time exemption from personal appearance to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and extended his pre-arrest bail till July 16 in an assets-beyond-means investigation by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, who headed a division bench, asked the counsel of Mr Shahbaz about the absence of his client even after his recovery from Covid-19.
Advocate Amjad Pervez, the counsel, said as per medical experts a patient of coronavirus could be declared fully recovered only after two consecutive negative reports. He said the petitioner had not fully recovered as he still showed some symptoms. He asked the bench to adjourn the hearing for three weeks.
Justice Naeem reminded the counsel that he had sought three-week adjournment on the previous hearing also and he was making the same request again. He noted that the NAB had already given its consent for permanent exemption to the petitioner if the court decided to hear arguments on bail petition.
One-time exemption from personal appearance
Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, senior counsel of Shahbaz, said he would have concluded the arguments on the last hearing if he could predict that the court will confirm the bail. He said some powers wanted to see the petitioner behind bars.
Justice Naeem pointed out that Mr Shahbaz had visited the high court for signing bail bonds a few days ago.
Mr Tarar said the bench should laud the efforts of the petitioner. He said the NAB will not face any irreparable loss if hearing of the bail petition was adjourned for three weeks.
“What we are asking for is not the attendance of the petitioner, but your arguments,” the judge said to the counsel.
However, Mr Tarar said at least two weeks should be given to the petitioner.
“It will make me confident if I present arguments in the presence of my client,” the counsel added.
The bench allowed one-time exemption from personal appearance to the petitioner and also extended his bail till the next hearing.
Mr Shahbaz had filed an application seeking exemption from appearance in the hearing of his bail petition as he was still undergoing a great fatigue due to age. The petitioner said he had been living in isolation at home under the supervision of doctors of Ittefaq Hospital who advised him to undergo multiple tests of antibodies. He pleaded that under such circumstances it will be highly risky for him to expose himself in public.
Jang editor’s bail: The Lahore High Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing of the post-arrest bail petition of Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakilur Rehman for a day as arguments of his counsel were in progress.
PML-N MNA Rana Sanaullah Khan, Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Abid Saqi and Lahore High Court Bar Association President Tahir Nasarullah Warraich attended the hearing to express solidarity with Mr Rehman. Senior journalists Hamid Mir and Sohail Warraich were also present in the courtroom.
In his arguments, Mr Rehman’s counsel Amjad Pervez said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) wrongly invoked its ordinance in the case, as the petitioner was not a public office holder. He said the chairman had no power to issue arrest warrants for the petitioner.
Referring to two other suspects in the case -- former officials of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) -- the counsel said the suspects facing charge of misuse of authority were not arrested, which showed discrimination on the part of the NAB.
He alleged that the petitioner was arrested as his media house was critical of the government’s policies. There was no need to keep the petitioner behind bars as the investigation had been completed and the reference filed by the prosecution, he added.
Advocate Pervez said the LDA never raised objections to the general power of attorney in favour of the petitioner and the exemption granted to him from 1986 to 2019. The LDA was not even a complainant in the case, he added.
The bench comprising Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem and Justice Farooq Haider deferred the hearing till Wednesday (today) when the petitioner’s counsel will resume his arguments.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2020