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October 27, 2019

Second bail in 48 hours: Nawaz freed for now

Top Story

October 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday approved the interim bail of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds until Tuesday in the Al-Azizia reference.

After the court orders, 'Robkar' was issued that was handed over to the Kot Lakhpat Jail authorities following which Nawaz Sharif was set free late in the night. The court had also summoned Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Tuesday. It said Buzdar must make a personal appearance. The petition was heard by a two-member bench that included IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani. The PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif had approached the court for an early hearing regarding the disposition of the former premier’s sentence.

In the hearing, the court accepted the bail plea until Tuesday against two bail bonds worth Rs2 million, asking the federal and Punjab government to send a concrete answer related to the plea. Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani remarked that the state was responsible for protection of lives and property of all citizens of the country. He asked what was the urgency in holding an early hearing of the case. The lawyer of the petitioner informed the court that Nawaz Sharif had suffered a minor heart attack and his health had further deteriorated after Friday.

During the hearing, the chief justice remarked that the request for bail on medical grounds should not have been filed with the court to begin with, as the government has the authority to decide on such a case. The Additional Prosecutor General of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said the NAB has no objection to the bail of Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds. Following the decision, the PML-N submitted the bail bonds. It was second relief for the former premier within 48 hours.

During the hearing, the IHC chief justice said if the government opposes the bail plea then the court will dismiss the petition for Nawaz’ bail. “During this time period, if anything happens to Nawaz Sharif then the government and the NAB, not the court, will be responsible,” remarked the court’s top judge. He further said ministers are trying to place the entire case on the court’s jurisdiction, which is why ‘a yes or no’ answer is needed. Following Justice Athar Minallah’s observation, the AAG NAB responded that the federal government has nothing to do with this entire matter and they ‘cannot take any responsibility’. The court then ordered the AAG to take clear directions from Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar. "Do not put entire responsibility (of the outcome of the verdict) on the court's shoulders. If you are confident that nothing will happen to Nawaz Sharif till Tuesday, then take responsibility," the chief justice remarked. The court gave the government till Tuesday to submit a detailed medical report.

While the additional attorney general said the federal government "has no role in the matter", the interior secretary remarked: "We cannot take any responsibility." The interior secretary further contended: "You should base your judgment on the merits of the case." "If you are unwilling to submit an affidavit, there must indeed be something wrong," said Chief Justice Athar Minallah. "This court will not take any responsibility," he declared. The Punjab advocate general then sought permission to take the matter up with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. Granting permission, the court once more put the hearing on a brief hold. When the session resumed, after a response by the NAB chairman declaring no objection to bail, the court announced its decision to grant Nawaz interim bail till Tuesday.

During the hearing, the IHC also instructed the federal government to seek reports from all provincial governments over the measures taken for ailing prisoners. The interior secretary was told to submit a report to the court in this regard within 15 days.

The court said the report should mention how many prisoners died during incarceration owing to the provincial government's failure to act on the authority provided to it. The report must also detail which court orders have been implemented regarding the treatment of prisoners.

On December 24, 2018, an accountability court had sentenced Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and acquitted him in the Flagship reference. The court said there was concrete evidence against the former premier in the Al-Azizia reference and he was unable to provide a money trail in the case. The court ordered that Nawaz be "sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term of seven years along with a fine of Rs1.5 billion and US$25 million".

Meanwhile, during the hearing of the bial case, Justice Athar Minallah summoned five anchorpersons to the rostrum for a news 'aired' about ‘deal’ between government and opposition. “It is regretful that you all talk about deals. Judges are trolled on the social media. The courts hear cases of political figures as per laws. Judiciary is a respectable institution and this act is affecting public trust in the judiciary,” he said.

The chief justice asked if other institutions and prime minister are part of any deal. He added that an elected prime minister is also being maligned. He also summoned chairman of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and expressed his anger. All anchors were ordered to submit their written replies.