Maryam’s plea for passport: LHC seeks NAB reply by Sept 27

PML-N leader says she is unable to exercise her fundamental rights for the last four years despite the absence of any charge sheet or trial; she obeyed court orders

The Lahore High court on Wednesday directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to submit a reply until September 27 on a petition moved by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, seeking return of her passport.

A full bench of the LHC, headed by Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, took up the petition of the PML-N leader. Justice Ali Baqir Najfi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh were the other members of the bench.

As the hearing commenced, Advocate Amjad Pervaiz, the counsel for the petitioner, appeared before the court and argued that the main case against his client had still been pending for the last couple of years, while reference in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case was yet to be filed before the relevant court.

Giving reference to the judgement of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the lawyer argued that the NAB itself had said that the name of the accused could not be placed on Exit Control List (ECL) at this stage. He also contended that Maryam Nawaz had surrendered her passport as a surety and guarantee of herself before the court.

He also submitted that on August 8, 2019, when Maryam Nawaz was visiting her father at the Central Jail Lahore, she was arrested in an inquiry initiated by the NAB and was barred from completing her visit.

The petitioner’s lawyer stated that her physical custody was remanded to an investigation officer for 48 days after being sent to judicial lockup and later she was allowed post-arrest bail on merits by the LHC. The petitioner also informed the court that his client had surrendered her passport and deposited the required amount of Rs70 million.

He contended that she was unable to exercise her fundamental rights for the last four years despite the absence of any charge sheet or trial, and that she had obeyed the court orders.

“There may not be any apprehension of abscondance or otherwise in view of the track record of the petitioner who, notwithstanding a conviction order against her, voluntarily came back to Pakistan to surrender to the process of law while leaving behind her ailing mother on deathbed,” argued Advocate Pervaiz.

After hearing initial arguments of the petitioner’s lawyer, the full bench sought a reply from the anti-corruption watchdog and adjourned the hearing until September 27.

Earlier, a LHC division was dissolved after Justice Anwarul Haq Pannu, a member of the same bench, recused himself from hearing Maryam Nawaz’s plea for personal reasons. The petition was sent to Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti who later constituted a full bench to hear the matter.

It was the fourth time since April that the LHC bench was dissolved. Maryam Nawaz had surrendered her passport before the LHC in compliance with the court orders after she was granted post-arrest bail in Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

Formed in April, the first division bench led by Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi sent the petition to the chief justice, refusing to hear it and recommending it should be fixed before any other bench. Justice Anwarul Haq Pannu was another member of the bench. On it, the CJ sent the petition to another division bench comprising Justice Ali Baqir Najfi and Justice Farooq Haider. The latter, however, refused to hear the plea for personal reasons, leading to the bench’s dissolution for the second time.

Justice Ali Baqir Najfi and Justice Asjad Javed Ghural were members of the third division bench. But this time Justice Ghural recused himself, citing personal reasons.