LHC calls for releasing Elahi as NAB delays submitting reply

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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday called for releasing former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sought more time to submit its reply explaining his arrest, ordering the anti-graft watchdog to produce him before the court at 2 pm today.

A single bench comprising Justice Amjad Rafiq was hearing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) president’s plea challenging his detention by the country’s top graft buster despite court orders refraining law enforcement agencies from arresting him.

A day earlier, the bench expressed its displeasure at the repeated arrests of political leaders and undisclosed cases surfacing one after the other in apparent disregard of court orders.

Justice Rafiq had summoned the NAB director-general in person and directed the bureau to submit details of all disclosed and undisclosed cases against Elahi.

When the proceedings commenced today, NAB’s counsel requested more time from the court to submit a detailed reply as to how and why Elahi was arrested in a previously undisclosed inquiry when the LHC had ordered his release.

At this, Justice Rafiq remarked that arrest warrants were issued despite court orders.

“Till NAB submits its detailed reply, this court orders his release,” said the LHC judge, expressing his ire at repeated arrests of the former Punjab CM.

NAB’s counsel contended that LHC orders had not specifically mentioned the anti-graft watchdog in its orders.

“Which authority granted permission to arrest Elahi?” inquired Justice Rafiq, adding that NAB can continue conducting its inquiries against the ex-CM, and in the meantime, he can be released.

Subsequently, it ordered the authorities to produce the senior politician at 2 pm today.

The petition

The petition, filed through Elahi’s counsel Amir Saeed Rawn, has challenged his detention by NAB on August 14.

The petitioner contends that his detention is a sheer violation of LHC’s order that had restricted law enforcement agencies and federal authorities from arresting the former Punjab CM in undisclosed FIRs or pending inquiries.

The petition maintains that since the professed NAB inquiry reportedly initiated on June 9 was never disclosed by the anti-graft watchdog, Elahi’s detention is in violation of court orders passed on July 13.

It further moves the court to direct all respondents not to arrest Elahi in any other undisclosed criminal case, inquiry or investigation and set the PTI leader at liberty for at least a reasonable time period as the court may deem appropriate so that he may have the opportunity to approach the relevant courts of law.

The arrests

An accountability court had remanded Elahi in NAB custody for one week on August 15 in connection with a case related to the alleged award of illegal contracts during his second term as the Punjab CM.

He was arrested a day prior by the country’s top graft buster from outside Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi minutes after his release on the conclusion of his 30-day detention period.

The former CM has been under arrest multiple times since the May 9 riots.

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