ISLAMABAD: The counsel for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday withdrew a petition filed in the Islamabad High Court challenging his non-bailable arrest warrants issued by an accountability court and seeking permission to join the Toshakhana reference proceedings through a pleader.
Subsequently, an IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq “dismissed the petition as withdrawn”.
During a brief hearing on the petition, Justice Minallah inquired about the status of the bail granted to Mr Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference for six weeks by the IHC bench on Oct 30 last year.
Counsel Jahangir Khan Jadoon informed the court that his client had instructed him to withdraw the petition.
When contacted to find the reason for withdrawal of the petition, former federal law minister Khalid Ranjha said that after the expiry of suspension of sentence the accused had to surrender before jail authorities first in order to seek further relief.
He said Mr Sharif didn’t file any representation before the IHC or any other forum for extension of suspension of his sentence and since the bail-granting order had also expired, he was an absconder now.
Mr Ranjha said the court could have issued a directive for repatriation in case the counsel failed to justify the status of the bail and this might be the reason for withdrawal of Mr Sharif’s petition.
Questioning the status of the bail granted to Mr Sharif in Al-Azizia reference, the IHC division had on Aug 17 declared: “Until the decision of the provincial government on the application [for extension of bail], he [Mr Sharif] shall continue to remain on bail.
“However, if petitioner [Mr Sharif] does not approach the provincial government within the period mentioned herein above, this order shall cease to have effect on lapse of period of eight weeks and the bail granted shall stand revoked/cancelled.”
According to the reference, Mr Sharif as well as former president and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had obtained cars from Toshakhana by paying only 15 per cent of the price of the luxury vehicles.
The National Accountability Bureau alleged that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had facilitated the allotment of the vehicles to Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif by dishonestly and illegally relaxing the procedure for the acceptance and disposal of gifts vide a cabinet division memorandum of 2007.
The accountability court-III of Islamabad had issued non-bailable warrants for Nawaz Sharif for not attending the court proceedings in the reference and had also initiated the process to declare him a proclaimed offender.
According to the petition, Toshakhana reference is an offshoot of the fake bank accounts case in which a joint investigation team did not establish anything against Mr Sharif. However, the petition went on to state that the name of the PML-N supreme leader surfaced “surprisingly” in the reference and the accountability court judge had initially summoned him and later issued non-bailable arrest warrants for him.
The petition argued that the IHC had granted Mr Sharif bail on Oct 29, 2019 on medical grounds, yet the accountability court judge initiated the process to declare the former premier a proclaimed offender under Section 87 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It recalled that Mr Sharif did not abscond but went to the United Kingdom on Nov 19, 2019 for medical treatment “with the approval of the government of Pakistan”.
“Knowingly that the petitioner [Mr Sharif] is not in Pakistan and at the time of filing reference and summoning the accused, the petitioner is out of the country for medical reasons after fulfilling all legal formalities, the respondents were misled by the investigation officer,” the petition had argued.
The petition had requested the high court to declare the arrest warrants illegal and as the ex-premier himself desired to join the proceeding of the accountability court, he be allowed to do so through the pleader.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2020