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September 8, 2007

Arrest warrant for Shahbaz issued

September 8, 2007

LAHORE: A special anti-terrorist court on Friday issued a warrant for Shahbaz Sharif’s arrest in the Sabzazar police encounter case on his return from exile on Monday.

ATC judge Shabbir Hussain Chattha directed the police to arrest Shahbaz and produce him before the court on his planned return to the country as he was an absconder in a case of extra judicial killings of five people during his tenure as the Punjab chief minister.

The warrant was issued during his exile, in 2003. He had returned to Pakistan in 2004, but was forcibly sent back to the UAE. The application, seeking new arrest warrants for Shahbaz, was filed by Saeeddudin, whose son Salahuddin was shot dead with four others by the Sabzazar police in an encounter. He submitted that in 2004 Shahbaz had returned but the government had sent him back with mala fide intention. Saeed accused the government of protecting the killer of his son.

The appellant said all the officers, including the IGP, the DIG Lahore, the SSP Operations and the Sabzazar SHO, had the orders of the court, declaring Shahbaz an absconder. He requested the court to direct these officers to arrest the absconder the moment he returned to Pakistan.

It merits a mention that an ATC had declared two accused, Shahbaz Sharif and Tariq Asghar, absconders. The court had also separated their trial from the main accused. The FIR of this case was registered on the directions of the Lahore High Court.

According to the FIR, police raided the house of Saeeduddin on April 21, 1998, took his son Salahuddin to the police station and demanded Rs 5,000 for the release. The complainant said he read in the newspaper on April 27, 1998 that his son and four others – Wakeel, Waseem, Haider and Abdul Rauf – were killed in a police encounter. He alleged the encounter was held on the orders of Shahbaz Sharif.

The other accused in the case included former Lahore senior superintendent of police Ahmad Raza Tahir, DSP

Umar Virk, Muhammad Asghar, ASI Zulfiqar Ahmad, ASI Lala Roshan, head constable Noorul Hassan, Constable Abid Hussain, Shamshad Ahmad, Munir Ahmad, Muhammad Riaz, Manzoor Ahmad and Hakim Ali.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz Sharif has sent an open letter to the Judge, Anti-Terrorism Court-III, Lahore, Shabbir Ahmad Chattha, assuring his appearance before the court on his return to the country.

The exiled leader, in his open letter, said he came to know through media that the court had issued a direction for his arrest and production on his arrival on September 10. He said the Sabzazar shootout case was registered in 2001 wherein certain police officers were accused of killing some people in fake police encounter and in the end, it was mentioned in an FIR that he (Shahbaz) was also involved in that conspiracy.

Shahbaz, clarifying his position, said the case was totally false and baseless. The case was investigated by a panel of senior police officers and in their report, it was unanimously observed that the case was totally baseless and its cancellation was recommended, he added.

“This honourable court in the year 2003 issued summon/warrants for my appearance. On these summon/warrants, a report was submitted that Shahbaz Sharif is residing in Saudi Arabia. It is known to everybody that I, along with my other family members, was forcibly sent out of the country in December 2000. However, when order of this honourable court came into my notice, I immediately sent an application through fax wherein I submitted that I will not waste a single moment in appearing before the court of my land,” Shahbaz said.

He further stated that in 2004 he landed at the Lahore Airport and wanted to appear before the court but the government in a deceitful mode sent him back to Saudi Arabia in sheer violation of the orders of the Supreme Court. “Now, I am coming to Pakistan on September 10. I have full confidence in the courts of Pakistan and will not waste a single moment in appearing before this honourable court. I am innocent and will seek justice from the court and will not request the government or any other authority for any concession,” Shahbaz concluded.

Online adds: Shahbaz has alleged that the Punjab chief minister, the inspector-general police and other “senior officials had, smuggled me, purely by deceit on May 11, 2004, and a petition will be filed in the court against all of them”.

Talking in a televised programme aired by a private TV channel, he said after the verdict of the apex court, the government was lodging fake and baseless cases against him in utter desperation. “If I were the accused of five murder cases, then why wasn’t I arrested instead of being deported,” he stated. “I am ready to face the court. The government cannot subjugate us through such unethical political tactics,” he added.

He categorically warned Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi and his administration that the provincial government should refrain from committing atrocities on the PML-N workers or be ready for dire consequences.

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