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September 8, 2019

Process of appointing accountability, special courts judges yet to start


September 8, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The federal law ministry is yet to receive the panels of judges from the Lahore High Court (LHC) to be appointed as presiding officers of two accountability courts and a Special Court (Control of Narcotics Substances) of Lahore.

“The federal government will start the process of appointing the judges of three special courts after it will get the nominations from the registrar,” an official, privy to the development, told The News on condition of anonymity.

He said that under the law the judges of these courts are named as a result of consultations between the federal law ministry and the high court chief justice concerned. “On August 26, we issued the notification of repatriation of Special Court (Control of Narcotics Substances) Judge Masood Arshad and two Lahore accountability courts judges Mushtaq Ilahi and Muhammad Naeem Arshad to the LHC, which, as per the law, will take further action on them,” he said.

The official said that as per the standard procedure the law ministry will send its recommendations to the prime minister for approval, who will then advise the president of Pakistan to issue the notification. He made it clear that the Aug 26 notification stands intact and there is no plan to withdraw it. “After the issuance of the repatriation notification, the concerned judges can’t perform judicial functions in these courts.”

Meanwhile, the bail plea of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Punjab President and member of the National Assembly Rana Sanaullah will come up for hearing in the Special Court (Control of Narcotics Substances) of Lahore on Saturday.

When approached, his lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar told The News that the attorneys representing Rana Sanaullah had completed their arguments on the bail request on Aug 28 when Judge Masood Arshad was transferred. When the judge was supposed to hand his ruling on the bail plea, he had announced: “I have just received a WhatsApp message, the LHC has repatriated me. I cannot lend my expertise to this case anymore.”

Tarar said that the prosecution may advance its arguments against the bail matter. The next judge, he said, may seek fresh arguments or decide the matter on the assertions already made. He did not expect any proceedings on the bail request on Saturday.

The lawyer said that all the three judges, who were transferred through the same notification of the law ministry, were still in their place but were not holding hearings and just giving new dates by adjourning the proceedings on the cases in their courts. The LHC registrar was contacted on his cell phone and a message was also sent to him to get his version, but he was not available.

The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) arrested Rana Sanaullah on the motorway near Lahore on July 24, claiming that 21 kilograms of heroin has been recovered from his car. The offence he has been charged with carries maximum punishment of death penalty.

Ten days back on Aug 28, Special Court (Control of Narcotics Substances) Judge Masood Arshad stopped hearing Sanaullah’s case midway after learning that he had been repatriated back to the LHC. It emerged that a law ministry notification, dated August 26, has recalled him and accountability counts judges Mushtaq Ilahi and Naeem Arshad, who were hearing the cases of PML-N leaders, including Maryam Nawaz, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Sharif, Yousuf Abbas and others. Naeem Arshad was the duty judge currently presiding over the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case against Maryam and Yousuf Abbas; the Ramazan Sugar Mills case against Shahbaz Sharif and money laundering cases against Hamza Shahbaz and Salman Shahbaz. He had been tasked with hearing these cases as the main judge was on summer holidays. Judge Mushtaq Ilahi was not hearing any high-profile cases. He, however, was on the benches hearing a number of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases. Rana Sanaullah’s counsel had stated that the development was unprecedented. “It seems like the government is trying to decide which judge it wants the verdict from. The arguments were concluded in the case when the government decided to withdraw the judge.”

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