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Interior Minister barred from entering NAB office

03 October, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: An odd situation emerged at the Judicial Complex, where former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before an accountability court hearing graft references filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), on Monday when Islamabad district administration and the police deputed for the security of the accountability courts was sidelined and Rangers took over the control of the venue.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif accompanied by his political secretary Senator Asif Kirmani, legal team and other political aides - Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haque and federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Senator Pervez Rasheed and MNA Maiza Hameed - reached the Judicial Complex at 8:35 am.

While Nawaz and his political secretary along with the legal team were allowed entry into the Judicial Complex, all other leaders of the PML-N, media persons and lawyers were barred from entering the premises.

On the last hearing of Nawaz Sharif's case on Sep 26, media was barred from covering the proceedings. However, after that hearing the accountability court registrar and district administration after due consultation with the media representatives had prepared a list and about 28 media persons, one from each media outlet, were issued passes to cover the proceedings on October 2.

Besides, a list of Nawaz Sharif's aides was also prepared by the court's registrar and the district administration who would be allowed to enter the courtroom along with Nawaz Sharif to witness the proceedings.

However, on Monday no one was allowed to enter the Judicial Complex by the paramilitary troops. At 7:00 am, when the security of the Judicial Complex was in the hands of the district administration and police, some media persons were allowed to enter the Judicial Complex.

However, at 8:00 am, all of a sudden Rangers appeared on the scene and took control of the Judicial Complex. The media persons who were inside the complex were forced to get out. On the insistence of media persons that they were allowed by the district administration and court registrar to cover the proceedings, a Rangers personnel said, "We don't know what is the court … you people just go out." Another tense situation emerged at about 9: 30 am when Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal tried to enter the Judicial Complex and Rangers personnel did not allow him.

The minister asked the Rangers personnel to tell their commander, who was reportedly inside the court, to come out and tell him on whose orders they were holding the security of the complex.

The minister was kept on waiting for about 15 minutes and after that he was told by the Rangers personnel that their commander, Brig Asif, was not present inside. The interior minister got furious and lashed out at the Rangers for barring entry of the PML-N leaders, media persons, lawyers and supporters of Nawaz Sharif.

While admonishing an assistant commissioner at the spot, the minister asked him to sort the matter out and submit him a report, adding, "This is not a banana republic this is a constitutional republic."

Speaking to media, the minister said courts are always an open space, where lawyers, litigants and even any citizen can enter and witness the proceedings. He said closed trails are conducted only during the martial law regimes. In democracy, he said, trials are always open and transparent.

The minister said that security of the complex was under the control of district administration and it had also prepared a list of the names of media persons and PML-N leaders and supporters who would be allowed to enter the court. However, he said, Islamabad chief commissioner informed him in the morning that Rangers had suddenly appeared and taken over the security of the Judicial Complex. He said he did not know on whose orders the para-military troops had taken over in the presence of police and district administration.

He said Rangers were deployed under the command of the chief commissioner, however it was strange that on whose orders they took over the control.

He said the chief commissioner informed him that when he asked the Rangers officials that a plan had been prepared in advance which would be followed regarding entry into the court premises, the Rangers official in command refused to accept the plan and said they would follow the orders they had received and would not allow anyone except Nawaz Sharif to enter the court.

The minister said he was forced to take notice of the situation because Rangers is a force that is subordinate to the Interior Ministry and when they are deployed, they are supposed to work under the command of the civil administration.

He said since Rangers had violated orders of the civil administration, thus a high-level inquiry would be held and it would be determined who challenged the writ of the government. He said disciplinary action would be taken against the responsible and delinquent officials. He also threatened to resign saying, "I cannot be a puppet interior minister." "Whose orders the paramilitary force was following when the ministry he heads did not issue any such orders to the force," he asked.

The minister said there will be one law and one government, adding no state within state will be allowed. He said he also brought the issue to the notice of the prime minister and has directed the district administration to submit a report.

Later, at 12: 20 pm, when the court proceedings were near to end, a Rangers official came out to talk to PML-N leaders Daniyal Aziz and Maiza Hameed. In his brief talk, he asked them that they could enter the court, but the PML-N leaders refused to enter, saying their other leaders had gone back and it was no use going in when the hearing had already ended. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif came out of the court and left for the Punjab House, where he is staying.

Later, a delegation of reporters met accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir and apprised him about ban on their entry. The judge told the reporters that he did not pass any orders regarding barring entry of the media persons.

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