The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the deputy registrar (judicial) to return PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s passport, which she had surrendered to the court in 2019 for getting bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case.
The development came after the Islamabad High Court set aside Maryam’s conviction in the Avenfield case.
A three-member bench, headed by LHC Chief Justice (CJ) Muhammad Ameer Bhatti and comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, issued the directives.
The bench was hearing a plea of the PML-N vice president seeking the return of her passport which she had surrendered before LHC’s Deputy Registrar (Judicial) after she had been granted post-arrest bail in the Chaudhary Sugar Mills Limited (CSML) case.
As the proceedings commenced, CJ Bhatti asked whether or not Maryam Nawaz had submitted any application for seeking the return of her passport. Maryam’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, argued that the previous plea has become infructuous in the presence of the current application.
The chief justice asked whether there was any order on the application. Pervez argued that an application which they had filed seeking return of the passport on the ground of offering Umrah had been withdrawn, however, the application that had been filed seeking permission to go abroad to look after her father who was 'sick' earlier is still pending.
However, the bench accepted the request of Maryam’s counsel to continue arguments on the fresh application on the ground that he withdraws the already pending application.
Pervez said Maryam had been in NAB’s custody but the accountability body could neither establish guilt nor finish the investigation in the reference which was filed four years earlier.
Maryam’s counsel implored that his client had also deposited Rs70 million and surrendered her passport but a reference was not filed, adding that she was not being allowed to move freely either.
The chief justice asked the deputy attorney general to comment on the matter. To this, he responded that the matter was in the court and the court can decide.
Following that, Justice Bhatti asked the deputy attorney general about the progress of the application filed against Maryam’s bail in Supreme Court. He replied that he is unaware of that.
The deputy attorney general's response irked the chief justice who remarked, "Whenever there are rivals present, there is hue and cry but when your favourites come, you all become humble and calm".
Hearing this, Advocate Pervaiz argued that the court has the jurisdiction and can modify the order to the extent of the passport.
Justice Bhatti questioned NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General Punjab Syed Waqar Hussain Naqvi regarding the case. He responded that NAB’s investigation wing was probing whether or not the matter, under the NAB’s Amended Ordinance, will fall within the NAB’s jurisdiction.
However, he did not oppose returning the passport, adding that no investigation was pending.
After hearing the detailed arguments and taking the views of the federation and NAB, Justice Bhatti directed the deputy registrar (judicial) to return the PML-N leader her passport.
Last month, the PML-N leader had once again approached the high court for the return of her passport, which she had surrendered before the LHC deputy registrar after she had been granted post-arrest bail in the Chaudhary Sugar Mills Limited (CSML) case nearly four years ago.
The bail was sought after surety bonds in the sum of Rs10 million each from two sureties were submitted with a trial court, and separately depositing Rs70 million with the deputy registrar.
Through a fresh civil miscellaneous filed with her pending writ petition, Maryam contended that “as per record, the inquiry was initiated on November 14, 2018, but no reference has been filed against the petitioner as of today despite a lapse of about four years."
The PML-N leader maintained that "the retention of the passport for an indefinite period is tantamount to be violative of her fundamental rights of treatment in accordance with the law, life, liberty, right of movement and equal protection of the law”.
It added that as per the “settled principles of administration of criminal justice system as also fundamental rights due process and fair trial guaranteed, vide Article 10-A of the constitution, a presumption of innocence is imperative and even under trial [the] accused does not lose fundamental rights of treatment”.
The PML-N leader later in a tweet stated that she had been returned her passport, after “it was confiscated three years ago in a case that has not been filed to date”.
Referring to former premier Imran Khan - during whose tenure Maryam’s passport was confiscated - as a ‘nuisance’, the PML-N leader said that she was kept under “wrongful confinement” by NAB for three months, and in a death cell in Kot Lakhpat jail out of “fear of my rallies”.
Taking a hit at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Maryam added that “the nuisance’s politics based on cruelty and vengeance had to come to an end one day.”
“However, this foreign agent has not stopped with his lies and scams even today. The consequences of his actions and his tragic end await him. God willing,” she added.
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