Court orders removal of journalist Cyril Almeida’s name from ECL, withdraws his arrest warrants
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday adjourned the hearing of a high treason case against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and journalist Cyril Almeida till October 22.
Earlier in the day, Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Cyril Almeida appeared before the LHC in the case pertaining to a controversial interview of the former with daily newspaper Dawn.
A three-member bench, headed by Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi, heard the petition lodged by Advocate Azhar Siddiqui against the trio.
As the hearing started, the court asked the deputy attorney general whether the federal government had taken any decision regarding the investigation in the case. The court was told that the case pertains to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and they have to conduct an inquiry in the case.
“How is this case pertaining to PEMRA, it seems you have not read the petition,” Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi remarked, adding that this is a sensitive case and the attorney general himself should appear before the court.
Further, the court ordered that Cyril Almeida’s name be removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) and arrest warrants against him be withdrawn following his appearance in the courtroom.
Sharif, Abbasi and Almeida’s attendance was noted and all three respondents were ordered to submit written replies to the court and appear before the bench on Oct 22.
Meanwhile, a local lawyer Afaq Ahmed filed a petition requesting that the treason case be set aside, arguing that it was not in accordance with law, and did not hold the signature of the petitioner but instead of her lawyer. High court rolls do not allow action on such petitions, Ahmed maintained.
Ahmed asked the court to make him party to the treason petition and scrap the case against Sharif. The maintainability of the petition must be assessed. It was not taken up by the court on Monday.
Security was enhanced as heavy contingents of police and Rangers were deployed outside the court. Several workers of PML-N were also present outside the premises of LHC and surrounded Nawaz when he reached the court.
In the previous hearing, Abbasi was present in court for the hearing while Nawaz and Almeida were absent.
Defence counsel Advocate Naseer Bhutta had said that the reason for Nawaz’s absence was that people have been visiting him to condole the passing of his wife Begum Kulsoom.
The court had also issued arrest warrants against Almeida and ordered that his name be placed on the ECL.
Picture Credit: Zubair Mehfooz
The petition alleges that Abbasi shared crucial details of the National Security Council (NSC) meeting with Nawaz following his statements on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
“By leaking details of the NSC Abbasi committed high treason,” the petition says.
Siddiqui had argued that Nawaz’s controversial interview to a publication had dented the country’s image and sovereignty. He further alleged that Abbasi supported Nawaz in the matter.
The petitioner had pleaded that Sharif had committed sedition by rejecting the NSC statement and was liable for action as per the Constitution and the Pakistan Penal Code, and also sought action against Abbasi for violation of oath through his disclosure of the minutes of the NSC meeting to Sharif.
He further requested the court to order a treason trial against the three respondents.
In July, the Lahore High Court had decided to adjourn the hearing till after the general elections.
On May 12, Nawaz gave an interview to a local daily in which he had stated, “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”
“We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it,” he added.