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Rangers barred PML-N leaders and supporters from entering NAB court: Ahsan Iqbal

02 October, 2017

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Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Monday lashed out at the Rangers paramilitary force for barring PML-N leaders, lawyers and supporters of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif from entering the accountability court in Islamabad where the former prime minister has appeared for a hearing into graft cases against him.

Speaking to reporters before he departed from the court in protest, Iqbal said courts are "open spaces" which supporters and lawyers of the defendant could enter.

The minister said it was only during martial law governments that closed trials were conducted, adding that trials held in democracies are "transparent".

He said the Islamabad chief commissioner had decided on the names of media personnel and PML-N leaders and supporters who would be allowed to enter the court on Monday. However, he said, the commissioner informed him this morning that "Rangers have suddenly appeared and taken over this place".

He said the Rangers are deployed under the command of the chief commissioner in Islamabad.

Iqbal said the chief commissioner informed him that when he [the commissioner] told Rangers officials that a plan prepared in advance would be followed regarding entry to the court, the Rangers officials in command refused to accept the plan and said they would follow the orders they have been given and "would not allow anyone but Nawaz Sharif to enter [the court]".

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

Iqbal said if Rangers had violated orders of the civil administration, a "high-level inquiry" would take place of the matter and it would be determined "who challenged the writ of the government".

The minister said the local commander of Rangers "vanished" for 15 minutes when he was called to discuss the situation.

He also threatened to resign if the rule didn't become clear about what the writ of the state and the civil administration is. "I cannot be a puppet interior minister," he said. He further questioned whose orders the paramilitary force was following when the ministry he heads did not issue any orders that the force was enforcing.

"There will be one law here and one government... two states cannot function within one state." The minister said he has also brought the issue to the notice of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. He has directed the district administration to submit a report into the incident.

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