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Hanif Abbasi resigns as SAPM after IHC objects to appointment

PML-N leader’s resignation comes after former interior minister Sh Rashid filed petition against him

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) Hanif Abbasi on Thursday resigned from the post after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) raised objections to his appointment.

As per Abbasi’s resignation letter submitted to the premier for approval, he wanted to leave the post as he was “unable to perform at present” and requested the premier to accept his resignation while thanking him for the opportunity.

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This comes after IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah barred Abbasi from working as SAPM last month. The directives were issued while hearing a petition filed by former interior minister and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid, who had challenged Abbasi’s appointment as SAPM on the grounds of his 2018 conviction in the ephedrine case.

During the hearing on May 17, the court observed that a person who has been convicted could not hold public office.

Abbasi’s lawyer, Ahsan Bhoon had argued that the office of the SAPM was not like other public offices. However, Justice Minallah had ruled that the SAPM’s job was to advise the prime minister and he could do so without notification as well.

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Last month, the former interior minister challenged the appointment of Abbasi as SAPM in the IHC.

In the petition Rashid questioned the federal government’s appointment of Hanif Abbasi, stating that the office of the SAPM required the selection of “people possessing high virtues and strong moral fibre…to these important public offices.”

Rashid had filed the petition challenging Abbasi’s appointment on May 6 through his counsel Barrister Sajeel Shaharyar in which the Cabinet Division and Abbasi were nominated as respondents.

The petition pointed out that the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) on July 21, 2012, registered an FIR against Abbasi under Section 9-C, 14 and 15 of the Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997 for selling 500kg ephedrine to drug smugglers.

According to the charge sheet, the two officials of Arafaat Traders, the Karachi-based medicine distribution company to whom Abbasi claimed to have supplied 11,000 ephedrine-containing tablets denied Abbasi’s claim, the challan revealed, though the same company had earlier confirmed before the ANF that Abbasi had provided them ephedrine-containing tablets.

The CNS Court on July 21, 2018, found Abbasi guilty of selling 500kg of ephedrine to narcotics smugglers and a fine of Rs1 million was imposed on the PML-N leader along with the life sentence.

Seven other accused were acquitted in the case. The sentence, however, was suspended in April 2019. Rashid, in the petition, pointed out that the Lahore High Court vide order dated April 11, 2019 “only suspended the sentence of the Respondent No. 2 [Abbasi] and not the conviction” adding that “the conviction stood intact for all intents and purposes.”

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