LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday issued non-bailable arrest warrant for journalist Cyril Almeida after he failed to appear before the court on the third consecutive hearing of a petition seeking high treason trial against him and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for ‘defaming the country in a controversial interview’.
The LHC’s full bench, headed by Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, also directed Sharif, who is recently released from Adiala Jail after the Islamabad High Court suspended his conviction by an accountability court, to appear before it on the next hearing on October 8.
On the previous hearing, the bench had issued arrest warrant for former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is also accused by the petitioner of committing high treason as he shared minutes of a National Security Council meeting with Sharif despite his being disqualified for life by the apex court.
On Monday, Abbasi appeared before the court as his counsel sought apology and cited misunderstanding as the cause of his earlier non-appearance. The court was also requested that Abbasi be granted exemption from appearance as he is busy in campaigning for the upcoming by-election.
The judge said Abbasi should submit an application in this regard.
“Where is he? He did not turn up before the court in the last three hearings of the case,” Justice Naqvi asked Almeida’s counsel when he told the court he is here to represent the journalist.
When the counsel implored the court that Almeida would turn up at the next hearing, the judge asked him if he was giving an undertaking in this regard, asking what he would do if he did not turn up on the next hearing. The counsel said he would withdraw his Wakalatnama if Almeida did not turn up.
Justice Naqvi said the court did not want him to do that. “We will issue his non-bailable arrest warrant if undertaking is not given,” added the honourable judge.
The counsel requested the court to issue Almeida’s bailable warrant. The bench rejected the request while noting that the court respects only those who respect it.
Later, the bench issued non-bailable arrest warrant for Almeida with direction to the DIG Operations to ensure his presence in the court by the next date. The court also directed placing Almeida’s name on the Exit Control List.
Earlier, Sharif’s counsel told the bench the former premier was to appear in the court but could not do so due to the death of his wife, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz.
“Let me check the date of Kulsoom’s chehlum and request the court to fix a date after it,” the counsel said.
Justice Naqvi remarked that former PM Nawaz Sharif should appear before the court once and then he could adopt legal procedure.
In the previous hearing, the full bench had issued notices to Sharif through the Adiala Jail superintendent and Almeida through the SSP Islamabad.
In October 2016, Almeida had filed a report claiming that the civil leadership, then under Sharif, had warned the military establishment against ‘helping’ terrorist.
The same reporter, in April this year, interviewed Sharif, who hinted at the involvement of non-state actors from Pakistan in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Both the reports were published by daily Dawn.