–Court says the way ANF handled case indicates it ‘was not interested in unearthing’ illegal activities of PML-N lawmaker
–Says political victimisation cannot be overlooked as it’s an ‘open secret’ in Pakistan
LAHORE: In the detailed court order which granted post-arrest bail to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Punjab President Rana Sanaullah Khan in the narcotics case against him, the Lahore High Court (LHC) noticed “visible lapses in the prosecution case”.
Justice Chaudhry Mushtaq Ahmad, who authored the court, declared that the “guilt of the petitioner (Sanaullah) needs further probe and his case calls for further inquiry”.
Former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah was granted bail on Tuesday six months after his arrest in July. A detailed order in this regard was released earlier today.
According to the verdict: “Lapses in the prosecution case noted above are visible on surface of record like non-preparation of recovery memos at the place of recovery, non-investigation regarding involvement of petitioner in running a network of smuggling of narcotics and sending only 20 grams of contraband out of the total quantity of 15 kilograms heroin allegedly recovered from possession of petitioner do indicate prima facie that guilt of the petitioner needs further probe and his case calls for further inquiry.”
Additionally, the judge noted that other co-accused in the case were granted post-arrest bail by the trial court, an order which was not appealed by the prosecution.
The LHC also disposed of the ANF’s special prosecutor’s objections to the maintainability of the petition.
The judge recounted the events of the PML-N Punjab president’s arrest based on the contents of the First Information Report (FIR) and other material available on the record.
As per the written order, the 21-member raiding party was constituted after receiving information about the arrival of Sanaullah at Ravi Toll Plaza in Lahore. Sanaullah, along with his gunmen (five in number), were stopped at the toll plaza and all of them were disarmed by the raiding party.
Most strikingly, the LHC in its order said that at the place of recovery, no recovery memo regarding the allegedly recovered narcotics was prepared, rather the accused and the case property was taken to the police station where the necessary documentation was carried out.
“It is mentioned in FIR that gunmen of the petitioner started grappling with members of raiding party in order to rescue the petitioner forcibly but they were overpowered and disarmed,” the order stated, adding: “Thereafter a suitcase was found lying in the vehicle and on weighing, it came to 21.5 kg but said suitcase along with petitioner and his gunmen, as well as vehicles, was brought at Police Station, Regional Directorate ANF Lahore and proceedings were conducted at said police station including preparation of recovering memos and sealed parcels etc.”
Additionally, the order noted that the sample parcel of 20 grams of the 15kg of ‘heroin’ was prepared for sending to the office of the chemical examiner.
“Explanation furnished regarding non-preparation of documents at the place of recovery was that people passing in their vehicles started gathering at Ravi Toll Plaza, Lahore, due to which accused as well as case property along with vehicles were brought to police station,” the order stated, adding that in the presence of the raiding party there was “hardly an occasion” not to conduct proceedings at the place of recovery.
“So [the] explanation furnished for not conducting proceedings at the spot was neither plausible nor convincing,” Justice Ahmad added.
Justice Ahmad said that when the accused were produced before the court the next day, the investigating officer had made no request for physical remand in order to investigate them about the network allegedly operating under the supervision of the present petitioner (Sanaullah).
“[…] Indicates that the investigating agency was not interested in unearthing the activities of the petitioner regarding smuggling of narcotics,” the judge stated.
Regarding the claim that the case was registered because the petitioner is a vocal member of an opposition party, the judge said: “Though such argument at bail stage is not attached much weight for the reason that deeper appreciation at the stage of bail is not permissible nor desirable.
“However, in the context of [the] petitioner being a vocal political leader of [an] opposition party, this aspect of the case could not be ignored as political victimisation in our country is an open secret.”
The written order stated that the seriousness of an allegation is not grounds for the refusal of bail if “on merits, it is found that prosecution’s case is doubtful as a benefit of the doubt always goes to the accused even at bail stage”.
“Incarceration of accused before conviction in cases of doubtful nature is never approved by the courts,” Justice Ahmed stated.