The federal government on Wednesday withdrew its appeal from the apex court challenging the permission granted by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif on May 7 to fly abroad for treatment.
An LHC single-judge bench on May 7 allowed the PML-N leader to leave the country – the same day he had filed a plea seeking the removal of his name from the blacklist.
The Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), however, stopped the PML-N president from flying to the UK via Qatar on May 8, telling him that his name was on the provincial identification list (PNIL).
On May 17, the federal government put Shehbaz’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) while also moving the top court against the LHC’s May 7 order.
When a division bench of the Supreme Court – comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah – resumed hearing of the petition on Wednesday, Shehbaz – through his lawyer Azam Nazeer Tarar – assured the bench that he would not pursue contempt proceedings against the government.
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan also told the court that the government was withdrawing its plea as the former Punjab chief minister had decided to take back his contempt plea from the high court. The court later disposed of the matter.
Earlier, the LHC registrar presented the record of the case before the bench. Justice Ahsan inquired if Shehbaz’s case was placed for hearing before the LHC single-judge bench under the system or due to some special reason.
The LHC registrar replied that the petition was placed for hearing in view of an objection. “It was decided that the objection would be decided with the petition. The objection was raised on Friday at 9:30am and the case was heard at 11:30am,” the registrar added.
The judge remarked that the public prosecutor was given only 30 minutes to take instructions on that day. The court further asked how many cases were heard at 12 noon on a Friday during the current year, adding that the LHC did not even ask about the list which had Shehbaz's name.
He said the LHC had not even inquired as to which list Shehbaz’s name had been put on. “In how many other cases such one-sided relief is provided? Could such a general order be issued?”
The court also opined that the manner in which Shahbaz Sharif was provided relief in this case could not become a precedent. Justice Shah, however, asked how the movement of a suspect in an ongoing criminal case could be restricted.
The AGP said the government had not made any accusations in its appeal against the LHC's verdict. He expressed concern that the LHC's decision would set precedence for future cases as well.
He said the LHC has also transferred the accountability court judge hearing Shehbaz's case. Shehbaz’s counsel asked what was the problem with appointing a new judge for the accountability court.
The AGP said it took three to four months to appoint a new judge. He said the government has objected to the manner in which the judge was removed prematurely.
The LHC registrar said names had been forwarded for appointment of new judges.
Justice Shah asked the AGP if the government had objected to the new names. The AGP said he had no information on that. He, however, asked the court to dispose of the federal government’s appeal.
The court after hearing arguments disposed of the case over withdrawal of petition. The bench later ordered an accountability court in Lahore to conclude the trial of National Assembly Leader of Opposition Shehbaz Sharif expeditiously, with due diligence and without undue delay.
It also ordered the government to immediately fill posts lying vacant in the accountability courts.
“In view of the concerns expressed by both sides and orders earlier passed by this court in different matters, we are sanguine that the accountability courts where presiding officers have not so far been appointed despite orders of this court will be appointed expeditiously and in accordance with the requirements of the National Accountability Ordinance.
“The proceedings in all such matters shall be completed expeditiously, with due diligence and without undue delay,” read an order issued by the bench later.
Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry later tweeted that the government's appeal in the apex court was no longer necessary as Shehbaz's name had been placed on the ECL and he had withdrawn his petition from the high court.