No more than 50 people can witness graft proceedings against Sharifs, judge decides


ISLAMABAD: The accountability court has decided to let no more than 50 persons enter the courtroom during the hearing of a graft reference against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam and her husband Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar to be held on Thursday.

In a letter addressed to Islamabad’s District Magistrate, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb ordered that “politically motivated persons”, including partisan lawyers, should not be allowed to enter the court during hearings of Panama Papers-related references against the Sharif family.

Justice Aurangzeb has instructed that only lawyers involved in the on-going graft cases against members of the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar; nominees forwarded by authorised individuals; and 15 court reporters will be allowed to enter the courtroom.

“Politically motivated persons” who may “obstruct the court proceedings” will not be allowed to enter, the justice ordered.

During the previous hearing of the graft cases against the Sharif family, the court had been forced to postponed the indictment till Oct 19 (Thursday) after PML-N lawyers and supporters forcibly entered the court’s building and created mayhem.

Just as the accountability court judge, Justice Muhammad Bashir, had entered his courtroom, a number of lawyers associated with the PML-N had forced their way inside and surrounded the judge’s bench, loudly complaining that they had been manhandled by security forces outside the court and prevented from entering the courtroom.

Justice Aurangzeb further ordered that a Quick Response Force should be stationed outside the court to check “any untoward incident in the courtroom”.

Since earlier this month, controversy has surrounded the security arrangements made for the Judicial Complex.

On Oct 2, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had lashed out at the Punjab Rangers after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders, lawyers and supporters of Nawaz Sharif were prevented from entering the accountability court for a hearing on that day by the paramilitary personnel.

In his statement to the media, Iqbal had said that whoever had asked Rangers to secure the Judicial Complex had “challenged the writ of the government”. He had ordered a high-level enquiry into the incident.

At the time, it was said that neither the Interior Ministry nor the chief commissioner had ordered the Rangers to take up security of the Judicial Complex.

Following the episode, the paramilitary force had also withdrawn the personnel detailed to the security of Parliament House.

The Frontier Constabulary was subsequently ordered to take charge of parliament’s security.

As a result of that move, Iqbal had sought an explanation from the director general of the Punjab Rangers. He had also enquired into the deployment of the force at the Federal Judicial Complex during the hearing of references against Nawaz Sharif “even though they had not been requested to do so”.

Days after the episode, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor defended the Rangers’ actions, stating that written orders for their deployment had not been issued on all occasions in the past and verbal arrangements, as were allegedly made on that occasion, had been a norm.

Commenting on Iqbal’s statement regarding the Rangers “challenging the writ of the government”, Ghafoor had said that a soldier deployed to do his duty should be commended for discharging his responsibilities despite facing pressure to abandon his orders. He had explained that the army chief himself would not have been entertained in a similar situation by the posted personnel.

The report ordered to determine who was responsible for what happened on Oct 2 has yet to be submitted to the Interior Ministry.