LAHORE: Three district and sessions judges hearing the cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah and members of the Sharif family were repatriated on Friday and directed to report to the Lahore High Court (LHC).
The LHC registrar’s office issued a notice to judge Masood Arshad of the special court for control of narcotics substance (CNS) and judges Muhammad Naeem Arshad and Mushtaq Elahi of accountability court-V and accountability court-I respectively.
“The Hon’ble Chief Justice [of the LHC] has been pleased to repatriate you and direct you to report to this court forthwith for further orders,” it read.
The law ministry had issued a notification on August 26 for repatriating the judges.
On August 28, Judge Masood Arshad was forced to stop the hearing of a drug smuggling case against Sanaullah, the PML-N Punjab president, midway after learning through a WhatsApp message that he had been transferred to the LHC.
Muhammad Naeem Arshad was hearing the Ramzan Sugar Mills case against Shehbaz Sharif, the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case against Maryam Nawaz and her cousin Yousuf Abbas and money laundering cases against Hamza Shehbaz and Salman Shehbaz. He was presiding over these cases in the capacity of a duty judge as the main judge was away on summer holidays.
Judge Mushtaq Elahi was hearing several NAB references.
Talking to reporters, Sanaullah’s counsel described the latest development as unprecedented, saying that the government was trying to decide which judge it wanted on the case.
Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar said the arguments had concluded in the case when the government decided to withdraw the judge through a notification.
The PML-N criticised the repatriation of the judge over Whatsapp in the midst of Sanaullah’s case hearing, calling it the “most vicious attack” on judiciary.
PML-N central leader Ahsan Iqbal and information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said it was the first time in country’s history that a judge had been taken off a case and transferred during the hearing of a case. The judge was not even honoured with a formal notification, they said.
Iqbal said the law ministry had taken every judge hearing the cases of PML-N leaders off their cases and transferred them.
In July this year, the Anti-Narcotics Force arrested Sanaullah claiming that it had found “a large quantity of drugs” in his vehicle.
Rana, who served as the Punjab law minister during the previous PML-N government, was arrested on the Islamabad-Lahore motorway near Sukheki, while he was traveling from Faisalabad to Lahore.