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Has LHC Gone Soft On Sharifs by Placing Names Of Six PML-N Loyalists on ECL

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The Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered the Interior Ministry to place the names of six PML-N workers on the Exit Control List, on Friday. These workers include a Member of National Assembly and a Member of Provincial Assembly for allegedly making anti-judiciary statements at a rally in Kasur, in April. MNA Waseem Akhtar, MPA Naeem Safdar, Kasur Baitul Maal Chairperson, Nasir Mehmood, and Market Committee Chairperson, Jameel Ahmed along with two others have been barred to leave the country.

The directives came from a full bench, headed by Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Naqvi, days after the police booked 80 PML-N activists, nominating six of them for allegedly staging a demonstration against the apex court verdict regarding the lifetime disqualification of former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief, Nawaz Sharif.

The speeches which landed the PML-N workers in trouble were not aired on television, but the social media was ablaze with videos showing staunch supporters of PML-N abusing judges of superior judiciary in public. The police registered cases against the accused under different sections pertaining to intentional insult and interruption to public servant in the judicial proceeding, because of which, multiple activists were arrested.

Nawaz Sharif, the former premier, has also blamed the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar of having imposed a dictatorship in the county, but his statement went unnoticed.

The trouble for PML-N workers stemmed out of the verdict of apex court regarding the disqualification tenure of lawmakers on the basis of article 62 (1) (f) of the constitution. As soon as the top court ruled that the disqualification would extend their lifetimes, scores of PML-N workers decried the decision as it directly sealed the political careers of Nawaz Sharif and PTI Secretary-General, Jahangir Tareen. However, in Kasur, a few supporters took a strong exception to the judgment and staged a protest rally where the local leaders of the ruling PML-N participated openly without filtering their slogans.

Read more: Shehbaz Sharif’s anger against NAB, SC is justified amid Punjab’s scrutiny

A case against the rally participants was filed, following which the police arrested as many as 40 workers, including the lawmakers. However, the accused were released on the 19th of April, after submitting surety bonds worth Rs100,000 each. Interestingly, no leader of the ruling PML-N turned up in the court to show solidarity with the accused.

Perhaps, the judgment of Lahore High Court seems somewhat harsh for some mere anti-judiciary remarks, which were not aired even on any television channel. However, delving into the details, there is a catch associated with the ruling. The provincial high court received a slew of petitions against the former Premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz’ contemptuous speeches.

The Chief Justice of Lahore High Court has, to this day, formed four benches to hear the petitions filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffery and Advocate Azhar Siddiqui, seeking a ban on anti-judiciary remarks made by Sharif family members. The fourth bench headed by Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi, comprising of Justice Shahid Jameel Khan and Justice Atir Mehmood started hearing the petitions on April 6 and ten days later placed a ban on the broadcasting of anti-judiciary remarks.

The speeches which landed the PML-N workers in trouble were not aired on television, but the social media was ablaze with videos showing staunch supporters of PML-N abusing judges of superior judiciary in public.

Initially, it was perceived that the ban was related to Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz. However, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, took a suo moto notice the following day and remarked that the Sharif family was not singled out. The Lahore High Court judgment also seemed soft considering that it directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to bar any and every broadcast of anti-judiciary comments, citing Article 19 and Article 68 of the constitution.

Read more: Nawaz eyes imprisonment, readies party for elections

Contrary to instructing the PEMRA, a bench headed by Syed Mazhar Ali Naqvi had directly enforced a ban on airing of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief, Altaf Hussain’s speeches, in 2015. Apparently, placing names of two of the lawmakers on the Exit Control List might seem harsh, but, comparing the comments aired, in a one minute video by the individuals in question and letting go the members of the Sharif family, raises doubts on whether PML-N was being provided an olive branch in the courts of Punjab.

Bringing in Pemra to stop televising anti-judiciary rants is questionable as the body is in the pockets of the ruling regime. Moreover, it is operating without any head from over four months and has obvious administrative issues.

Nawaz Sharif, the former premier, has also blamed the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar of having imposed a dictatorship in the county, but his statement went unnoticed. Even recently, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, expressed that the top court was engaged in irrelevant tasks, which again went unnoticed. The Supreme Court is already trying two of the ministers, close to Maryam Nawaz, in contempt of court cases. The verdict regarding Daniyal Aziz has been reserved while proceedings are underway against Tallal Chaudhry.

Looking at the ongoing cases in terms of quantity, PML-N might seem to be under the judicial axe. However, when bringing in the debate of quality, the evasion of Sharifs from contempt of court proceedings implies that placing names of local lawmakers on the ECL, might just be a smokescreen.


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