ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday lashed out at former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the federal government over his prolonged absence, with one member of the two-judge division bench describing the move on the part of the accused as ‘defeating the system’.
While appearing before the IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar said: “The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the British government on September 24, 2020 informed [the government] that they have no mandate to execute order of the Islamabad High Court.”
Justice Kayani criticised the deposed premier, who went abroad on medical grounds last year with the consent of the government after getting bail in a reference, for failing to appear before the court.
“Accused [Mr Sharif] knows that he went abroad after defeating the system. He must be laughing at the system while sitting abroad. It’s a shameful conduct by the accused,” the judge said.
UK’s FO refuses to execute warrant issued by court, govt tells the bench
The bench member also remarked, “We are wasting time here for procuring his attendance when thousands of cases are pending”.
He observed that in the future the federal government should consider how to let someone go abroad and at how much cost, as at the moment the court, government, foreign office and Pakistan High Commission in London were busy executing non-bailable warrants of arrest.
At one point while the additional attorney general and the additional prosecutor general of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Jahanzeb Khan Bharwana were arguing on Section 87 (proclamation for person absconding) of the Criminal Procedure Code and concealing of the accused so that such warrant could not be executed, Justice Aamer Farooq quipped: “He [Sharif] addressed the whole nation and we are still discussing if the accused is concealing himself.”
Justice Farooq then issued notice to the accused seeking his reply till October 7 when the court would resume the proceedings. He remarked that his absence could not be overlooked, as the ex-premier was on bail and was required to attend the hearing.
Justice Kayani said the accused had been given fair chance to appear before the court. The court would give a judgement once the requirements laid down in Section 87 of the CrPC were fulfilled. According to him, the court has to satisfy itself after taking evidence that any person against whom a warrant has been issued by it has absconded or is concealing himself to avoid execution of warrant so that later the accused may not take the plea that he was not aware of the court orders. After fulfilling the requirements, Section 87 of the CrPC says that court may publish a written proclamation requiring the accused to appear at a specified place and at a specified time not less than 30 days from the date of publishing of such proclamation.
When the additional prosecutor general of NAB argued that the court could simultaneously initiate proceedings under Sections 87 and 88 (attachment of property of person absconding) of the CrPC, Justice Farooq said: “We will cross that bridge when we reach that bridge”, explaining that the court had to first satisfy itself about the evidence in connection with Section 87.
The additional attorney general informed the court that a private secretary of Sharif’s son namely Waqar Ahmed, who had earlier conveyed that he was ready to receive the non-bailable warrants, had once again refused to receive the same at his residence in London. He said an official of the Pakistan High Commission in London, Rao Abdul Hanan, reached the Avenfield Apartments, but the warrants were not received.
In addition to Mr Khokhar, Director (Law) for Europe at the Foreign Office Mohammad Mubashir also informed the court that the warrants could not be executed through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK as the foreign office had no mandate to implement orders of the IHC.
Subsequently, the court decided to record statements of Mr Mubashir and Mr Hanan via video link at 1:30pm on October 7 and issued notices to the federal government and NAB.
Earlier, Justice Farooq inquired from the additional prosecutor general of NAB about the petition the bureau had filed seeking cancellation of Nawaz Sharif’s bail in Avenfield Apartments reference. However, Mr Bharwana did not advance arguments on the petition for bail cancellation.
The IHC had granted bail to Mr Sharif in Avenfield reference till decision on his appeal against his conviction in this case while the bail granted to him for eight weeks in Al-Azizia reference had lapsed in February this year.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2020