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Tuesday December 05, 2023

Parvez Elahi’s arrest: LHC issues contempt notice to Islamabad IG

LHC Justice Muhammad Amjad Rafiq ordered the Islamabad police chief to appear before the court on Sept 8

September 05, 2023
The picture shows the building of the Lahore High Court. — Radio Pakistan/File
The picture shows the building of the Lahore High Court. — Radio Pakistan/File

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) Monday issued a show-cause notice for contempt of court to Islamabad Inspector General (IG) Dr Akbar Nasir Khan in connection with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) President Parvez Elahi’s detention under 3-MPO (Maintenance of Public Order) last week.

LHC Justice Muhammad Amjad Rafiq ordered the Islamabad police chief to appear before the court on Sept 8. The PTI president was rearrested under 3-MPO by the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) police shortly after being released by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and subsequently, the seasoned politician was put under house arrest in Adiala jail for the next 15 days. The ICT police rearrested him despite the LHC restraining order against his possible arrest. Later, the former Punjab chief minister moved the LHC seeking contempt proceedings against the Islamabad IG.

Petitioner’s counsel -- Sardar Latif Khosa and Tahir Nasarullah Warraich -- contended that Elahi was arrested illegally in presence of the court’s restraining order, terming it abduction in a highly derogatory manner, as he was abducted on the same day near his house in the presence of police escort, provided to him by the court for a safe journey.

The petitioner’s counsel told the court that an Islamabad magistrate had issued a detention order for Elahi and he was now in Attock jail.

In his written order, Justice Rafiq observed that the Islamabad magistrate had no authority to issue any order for arrest or detention of the detainee who was residing and present in another province and that too in the custody of the NAB or the court.

The judge said the vires of such order could be challenged at appropriate forum, but by all means the Islamabad police had interfered in the jurisdiction of the LHC and also violated its order. The judge observed that if federal police were acting under the order of a magistrate, they could simply report back to the magistrate with a copy of the LHC stay order, but the arrest was illegal.

About the media visuals of Elahi’s arrest, Justice Rafiq observed, “What the people of Pakistan saw with pain on media forced me to say that if a man of such a political stature that too in his 70s is lifted up by his arms and legs by unknown persons (later told as Islamabad police), people must believe, the Constitution they give to this country is in danger.”

The LHC ordered the Islamabad IG to appear before the court in this regard on Sept 8. At the outset of Monday’s hearing, the Punjab IGP apprised the court that the Islamabad police had taken the former provincial chief executive into custody after being released by NAB. A report in that regard had been submitted to the registrar, he added. He admitted that no Punjab police officer had stopped the Islamabad police from arresting Elahi.

The LHC also ordered district sessions judge to recover Parvez Elahi from the Attock jail and produce him before the court on Tuesday (today). The LHC order came after Parvez Elahi’s wife, Qaisara Elahi, filed a contempt petition against the DIGs of Investigation and Operations for allegedly disobeying the LHC order, restraining the authorities from arresting or detaining her husband.

She alleged that the DIGs of Investigation and Operations arrested her husband in violation of the LHC order. She also demanded that the police officials be suspended, and a case be registered against them.

The LHC had earlier instructed the DIGs to appear in court by 11 a.m. on Monday, but they failed to do so. A police spokesperson told the court that the officers were not in the province. The LHC judge then inquired about the officials’ absence and warned of issuing a notice over their failure to appear in court.

DIG Security Kamran Adil arrived in court, but the judge said the official had not been summoned in the case. Subsequently, the judge instructed all the respondents to submit their responses in court by 2 p.m.

However, the DIG Investigation and DIG Operations failed to appear before the court. The LHC judge said the contempt of court notice would be served on the DIGs through their respective offices. He also directed the district and sessions judge Attock to produce Elahi in the court on Tuesday (today). The judge also summoned the jail’s superintendent in person.

However, as per the roster of sitting judges, issued by the LHC registrar for the first week after the end of summer vacation, starting from Sept 4, Justice Rafiq was available at the principal seat for Sept 4 only. He would perform judicial work at the Multan registry from Sept 5.

Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed an appeal in the LHC in connection with its restraining order against Elahi’s possible arrest in any undisclosed case. In its plea, NAB said that the ex-Punjab chief minister’s detention was “legal” and he was on “remand”.

“The [LHC] single bench did not examine the facts properly and passed the order of [his] release.” NAB pleaded with the court to declare the LHC single bench verdict in this case null and void. The anti-graft watchdog also urged the LHC to suspend the single bench’s order till the decision of this appeal.

Also, earlier on Monday, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) confirmed that former Punjab chief executive was brought to the hospital for a “routine medical check-up”.

Doctors conducted a medical examination of Elahi at the “emergency” of the hospital, the spokesperson added. “His [Elahi] blood pressure and various tests were conducted.” Following his medical examination, the police took him back to the Attock jail, the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) set Tuesday (today) as a date for hearing Elahi’s plea against his detention under 3-MPO. The arrest took place when an Islamabad police team, assisted by Lahore police, intercepted a white SUV in which Elahi was traveling with his lawyer, Sardar Latif Khosa, on their way to his home. They forcefully shifted him to an unmarked white car. The arrest was captured on camera and widely shared on social media, drawing condemnation from various quarters, including the Pakistan Bar Council.

The Islamabad police cited Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order as the grounds for Elahi’s custody. Following his re-arrest, Elahi approached the Islamabad High Court for his release.

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), meanwhile, expressed grave concern over continued and unlawful detention of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, a senior politician and former chief minister Punjab, despite clear orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC) to not to arrest him in any case.

In a statement issued here, SCBA President Barrister Abid S. Zuberi, Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir, and 25 executive committee members expressed their deep concern over the arrest of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

They said such repeated arrests were not only grave injustice but also a blatant disregard of principles of justice, rule of law, and sanctity of the court orders.

They said the recent pattern of repeated arrests immediately after grant of bail and release from prison is a distressing reflection of an extreme abuse of power.

“It is an affront to the rule of law, disobedience and disrespect of our esteemed courts and judges, and a disregard for the fundamental rights, enshrined in our Constitution,” they added.

They observed that the law of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) is a draconian law that has been misused and applied in cases where the circumstances outlined in the MPO orders do not genuinely exist.

“This misuse of power not only infringes upon the rights and freedoms of individuals but also undermines the very foundations of a just and democratic society,” they said and called upon all relevant authorities to uphold the principles of justice, respect for the rule of law, and protection of fundamental rights of all citizens.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice-Chairman Haroonur Rashid and Executive Committee Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha convened an “All Pakistan Lawyers Representatives Conference” for Tuesday (today) at the Supreme Court office.

The conference would discuss critical issues, including holding of general election, challenges facing the legal fraternity, and the ongoing economic crisis in Pakistan, said a statement, issued by the PBC.

It said that representatives of bar councils and bar associations across the country had confirmed their participation, and it was expected that the conference would chart the future course of action for the legal fraternity in addressing these pressing concerns.