The Peshawar High Court (PHC) accepted Makhdoom Shahabuddin’s transit bail request on Friday, giving him a seven-day protective bail along with an opportunity to contest the poll for the prime minister.
The bail request was filed right after an arrest warrant for Shahabuddin was issued by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) in connection with the ephedrine quota case. The warrant came only hours after the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party announced him as their nominee for the vacant premier’s seat.
Routine cases were being heard in the PHC when Shahabuddin’s counsel Barrister Zahoorul Haq asked PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan to grant his client a transit bail. Khan had refused the bail request earlier, saying the case had not been placed before him.
“How can I give him transit bail? The case is not before me,” Khan maintained while issuing instructions that a supplementary cause list be prepared to hear the bail request.
Khan also inquired why Shahabuddin was not arrested on his journey to Peshawar. He expressed surprise as to how a person wanted by the ANF was not apprehended by the motorway police, known especially for their vigilance.
Once the list was prepared, Haq informed the court that Shahabuddin had not been nominated in the FIR registered at the ANF police station in Rawalpindi. He claimed the media had played up the issue since his client had been nominated for the seat of the prime minister.
“We can give (Shahabuddin) protective bail but only the president and governors are exempted under Article 248 of the Constitution, not the prime minister. What if the court (where the trial would take place) cancels his bail? How embarrassing would it be for a prime minister and the whole nation?” Khan observed.
Haq, while stressing his client’s innocence, said that “(Shahabuddin) will join the investigation… all he wants is to contest the election.” He added that he will advise Shahabuddin to surrender before the court tomorrow and that his client will not abscond from the proceedings. Haq also assured the court that his client, if elected prime minister, will not use his office to influence the case.
Observing that case records were not present before that court and that Shahabuddin’s name was not mentioned in the copy of the FIR, the PHC chief justice granted him a seven-day protective bail so that he may contest the election. The court, while issuing the order, added however, that “If elected, the petitioner will still have to appear before the investigation authority.”
Addressing the media outside the courtroom, Shahabuddin asserted that the warrant was intended to embarrass the president and the government. “I have been given protective bail but let me tell you, if I had not been nominated for the premiership, I would not have been nominated in this case,” he said.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.