Thursday Mar 26, 2020
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court asked the National Accountability Bureau on Thursday to submit clause-wise response in the plea against the arrest of Jang Geo Media Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in relation to a fake private property case.
MSR's wife, Shahina Shakil, had moved the LHC on March 16 through Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan challenging the detention.
A two-member bench under Justice Naeem Ahmed resumed the hearing in the case today, where Barrister Ahsan appeared to present the arguments.
In the hearing today, the court asked the NAB to present reasons behind the arrest, clause by clause, in reference to the plea.
In today's hearing, Aitezaz Ahsan informed the court that NAB violated its policy by arresting MSR. He added that NAB had itself decided not to summon businessmen.
To this, the court interjected and asked the counsel whether MSR was a businessman. It also asked if a journalist can be considered as a businessman.
Ahsan told the court that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is a businessman and is running a very large group. He added that a constitutional petition for the release of MSR has also been filed with the court, adding that his client is under illegal detention.
The prosecutor informed the court that the case was at an inquiry stage and the bureau got his remand on Wednesday.
The court asked NAB’s lawyer to submit a copy of the remand.
During the proceedings, the judge enquired about the extension of MSR’s remand by an accountability court on Wednesday.
“If the accountability court in the case has extended the remand then what is left?” the court said to the NAB prosecutor.
To which, the prosecutor responded that the plea against the extension in remand is also queued up to be heard.
The LHC then said that it is also going to hear the plea against the extension today, after which it briefly adjourned the hearing for a while.
After resuming the hearing, the LHC directed that the remand order by the accountability court should be clubbed with the petition against the arrest.
The High Court, subsequently, adjourned the case until next Monday.
The NAB chairman, a director-general and judges of the accountability court, along with others, have been named in the petition.
The petition is based on the assertion that NAB violated the PTI government's own 2019 businessmen policy by arresting MSR.
"In the [accountability court] order that handed MSR over to authorities on physical remand, the judge did not explain the grounds [of doing so]," the petition further notes.
In earlier arguments before the court, the counsel for NAB had informed the bench that the case was still at the inquiry stage.
The court had stated that if this was so, the bureau should have simply asked MSR questions and recorded his statement instead of arresting him.
The court had remarked that the judiciary and the press are two fundamental pillars of the state and NAB will not be allowed to shake them up.
Following the arguments, the high court had allowed MSR to meet his family and lawyers, while also granting him access to medicines and newspapers.
NAB had on March 12 arrested MSR in connection with property allegedly bought illegally from a government entity more than 34 years ago.
According to a Jang Group spokesperson, the property was in fact bought from a private party 34 years ago and all evidence of this was given to NAB and legal requirements fulfilled, such as duty and taxes.
According to the spokesperson, the appearance before NAB was in relation to a call-up notice for the verification of the complaint, yet an arrest was made. Islamabad High Court's recent judgment against NAB's violation of the country’s law and a violation of NAB's own rules has been committed.
"In the past 18 months, NAB has sent our reporters, producers, and editors — directly and indirectly — over a dozen notices, threatening a shutdown of our channels (via PEMRA) due to our reporting and our programmes on NAB," said the spokesperson.
"In its defense, NAB has in writing said it is a constitutionally protected institution that cannot be criticised. NAB has also, through several means, tried to persuade the group to step back, to stop stories, among other measures in its favor at the expense of the full truth."
"The Group will not stop any reporters, producers or anchors from any story that is on merit and at the same time will include NAB’s version. In this case, NAB denies all allegations above and claims they are independently pursuing all cases and have not been asked to do by the democratically elected government," the spokesperson added.