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National

July 21, 2018

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Jail trial issue casts shadow over caretaker govt’s role

ISLAMABAD: Though the caretakers insist that it was a routine matter and 'executed legally', the apparently hasty movement of a letter on last Friday, July 13, regarding jail trial of former premier-- after approval of the interim Prime Minister Justice Nasirul Mulk within five minute -- raised many eyebrows.

Critics argue the affair is indicative of pressure on the caretaker government – a view forcefully rejected by Law Minister Ali Zafar. The minister, Ali Zafar categorically denied any kind of pressure on the federal government to allegedly push one political force against the wall.

The PM Office and the staff hesitated to provide The News the viewpoint of Justice Nasirul Mulk, himself an eminent jurist, regarding jail trial issue despite hectic phone and fax queries over the last four days.

According to available facts, The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) wrote the letter to the Law Ministry on July 13, Friday, the last working day of the week, seeking transferring of the premises of an accountability court to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, to hear cases against Nawaz Sharif and others.

The ministry swiftly forwarded it to the Cabinet Division, got signatures of federal ministers and most importantly of the prime minister within few minutes, sent the approval of the cabinet back to the Law Ministry in moments, and the ministry issued the unprecedented notification. In the past, only hardcore terrorists were tried in jail.

NAB officials deny the surprisingly speedy movement of the jail trial letter, while it could not be ascertained as to who was managing all this.

However, the federal cabinet withdrew its notification on Wednesday only after the accountability court adjourned the hearing of the references, earlier being heard on daily basis, till the end of July.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders allege that adjourning the references until after elections is meant to ensure that the former prime minister is unable to make even a single public appearance before the July 25 general elections.

During an interview after issuance of notification of jail trial, Law Minister Ali Zafar explained to The News in detail how different hearings of the accountability court would be conducted in Adiala Jail and how journalists and even citizens willing to observe this trial would be allowed to witness each and every proceedings.

No one from any department, division or ministry was ready to comment on this point though repeated questions were sent. Even Cabinet Division Secretary Abu Ahmad Akif, the Prime Minister’s Secretary Suhail Amir remained tight-lipped despite repeated questions on their phones and fax numbers. It was confirmed by The News that the fax was received.

After making so many calls to Suhail Amir, the secretary to the prime minister, The News sent him following questions: “For completion of a news story, I need response of the honourable Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan, Justice (R) Nasir-ul-Mulk on following questions:

(1). On July 13, 2018 (Friday), Ministry of Law issued a notification regarding transferring of the premises of the accountability court to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi for hearing of some NAB references. According to federal law minister, same notification was issued after the proper approval of the federal cabinet. The summary was finally approved by the honourable prime minister.

When there was not a single precedent of a jail trial of any NAB case and there was no issue of security whatsoever as former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz appeared for 104 times in accountability court without any security issue, as to why the caretaker prime minister, who himself is an imminent jurist, was a judge and former Chief Justice of Pakistan, gave approval to the summary of transferring the premises of accountability court to Adiala Jail?

(2). NAB has sent the request on the same day to ministry of law. Ministry of law forwarded the same to Cabinet Division on the same day. All the federal ministers and the honourable prime minister not only signed the summary on the same day but also sent it back to the law ministry on the same day. Sir, in opinion of the prime minister [what] was the urgency in the matter? Was there any pressure on the federal government to issue this notification? If so, who was exerting this pressure on the federal government?…”

But there had been no response until filing of this report.

Law Minister Ali Zafar, however, acknowledged in his last Wednesday interview that NAB had sent a request on July 13 to the Law Ministry for transferring the premises of the accountability court to the Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, for remaining trial of Nawaz Sharif in two NAB references. In his talk with The News on July 14, Ali Zafar did point out that issuing the notification very late at night was wrong and it should have been issued earlier. He, however, had held that the trial in jail will be held as an open trialand will not be kept secret as a ‘secret trial’ is not permissible under the law.

The Law Ministry notification issued by Muhammad Umar Aziz, deputy secretary of government of Pakistan, reads: “Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Law And Justice, Islamabad, the 13th July, 2018

ORDER: S.R.O. (1)/2018.— In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (b) of section 16 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 (XVIII of 1999), the Federal Government is pleased to specify the Central Jail Adyala, Rawalpindi, to be the place where the Accountability Court-I, Islamabad shall sit for trial of References No.18/2017 and 19/2017 against Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and others.

No.F.7(18)/2018-D&L”

Prime Minister Justice Nasirul Mulk, a very respected and credible jurist, ordered issuing a notification for transfer of premises of the accountability court for remaining trial in two NAB references on permanent basis. However, when it became clear that next part of trial can only be conducted after the elections, the notification was withdrawn.

Not only this, the federal government is a silent spectator on many on-going actions against political activists across the provinces of Punjab and Sindh and unprecedented action of NAB and other law enforcement agencies.

After countrywide criticism about an alleged harassment campaign of NAB against top political leaders, election candidates and other associates of one political side, the Bureau had announced that it will not “arrest” any candidate until Election Day, July 25.

However, Raja Qamarul Islam, a PML-N candidate, who was arrested before this announcement, is still behind the bars and is deprived form running his election campaign. His teenager children are running his campaign. Qamar was arrested the next day he was awarded party ticket to contest election against Chaudhry Nisar.

The federal government under Nasirul Mulk is responsible for ensuring conduct of a transparent and fair elections and can advise the president to promulgate an ordinance which can stop all this electoral engineering in shape of arrests and summons by NAB until the conduct of election and election of the new prime minister.

Another case in point is that of PMLN candidate Hanif Abbasi which had been pending for years but the verdict in this case is also being announced on July 21.

In case of an adverse order, Hanif Abbasi will be unable to contest the elections being held four days after the announcement of the judgement in his case.

NAB is also summoning different candidates and important leader on daily basis and is ensuring that they are made to wait for many hours to waste their time of election campaign as maximum as possible.

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