LAHORE: Senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) decried what they described as the double standards of the judiciary on Thursday after the Supreme Court declared the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan as illegal.
PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, in their separate statements and media talks, criticised the apex court judges, accusing them of favouritism.
In a scathing critique on Twitter, Maryam Nawaz went on to say that Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial had become a shield for this “miscreant fitna” [mischief] therefore, the chief justice should “step down from his post” and “join the PTI”.
چیف جسٹس صاحب کو آج قومی خزانے کے 60 ارب ہڑپ کرنے والے وارداتیے کو مل کر بہت خوشی ہوئی اور اس سے بھی زیادہ خوشی انھیں اس مجرم کو رہا کر کے ہوئی۔ ملک کی اہم ترین اور حساس تنصیبات پر حملوں کے سب سے بڑے ذمہ دار چیف جسٹس ہیں جو ایک فتنہ کی ڈھال بنے ہوئے ہیں اور ملک میں لگی آگ پر تیل…
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) May 11, 2023
In his media talk, Khawaja Asif said that there was no suo motu notice or the sense of justice, when the senior politicians, like Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Shehbaz Sharif Asif Zardari, Faryal Talpur and he himself faced cases during Imran Khan’s government.
Earlier in the day, a three member bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Bandial, declared Imran’s arrest in the Al-Qadir Trust case as illegal and ordered his immediate release.
The former prime minister was arrested on May 9 by the paramilitary Rangers on orders of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) over allegations Rs50 billion corruption.
In her tweet, Maryam Nawaz, the senior vice president of the PML-N claimed that the chief justice seemed exceedingly pleased with meeting an individual who was accused of embezzling Rs60 billion from the national treasury.
“And he was even more delighted in releasing this alleged criminal,” the PML-N leader said. She went on to accuse the top judge of becoming a shield for this miscreant and adding fuel to the fire in the country.
Maryam referred to the violent protests in the wake of Imran’s arrest in which several public and private properties, including some sensitive government installations, were damaged or destroyed.
She accused the chief justice of being responsible for the attacks on “crucial and sensitive institutions” in the country. “The chief justice of Pakistan should leave the post and join the Tehreek-e-Insaf,” she stated on the micro-blogging website.
During the press conference in Islamabad, Asif decried the double standards of the judiciary. “Why did politicians, including Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Maryam Nawaz and me not get this kind of treatment from the Supreme Court?”
Referring to the NAB references against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N leaders during the tenure of the PTI government, Asif recalled that in those days the graft buster was allowed 90-day remand.
“In those days no one thought of ending our detention. Now the facilities of the rest house are allowed [to Imran Khan]. Why are there two standards in this country?” he asked. “There are two standards everywhere, normal life, law, the Constitution.”
Asif said that 90-day remand period was reduced to 15-day through the amendments to the NAB laws by the present government, while Imran Khan was its first beneficiary. “There is a question why there are double standards.
He also fired a broadside against the PTI chief. He said medical report of Imran in police custody and the medical report of his charity hospital were way different. “The nature of his injuries is different,” he said about the leg injury of Imran from the Wazirabad attack.
“Even today Imran Khan walked by himself in the corridors of the Supreme Court. He did not need a wheelchair, nor did he showed pain or signs that his leg was injured,” Asif claimed. “For how long will the nation be fooled?”
Asif referred to an alleged audio conversation, purportedly between Imran Khan and PTI leader Musrat Jamshed Cheema. He also mentioned that an audio had surfaced in which a lawyer was saying what would be the court decision.
Asif condemned the violence after Imran’s arrest. “What happened in this violence? Martyrs’ memorials, defence installations, corps commander’s house were attacked but the courts did not take suo motu notice,” he said.
“The kind of siege and the language used in Punjab and K-P [Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa] is not hidden from anyone. Was that not an attack on the integrity of the country? Had any other party or organisation done this, I don’t know what would have happened by now.”
Asif pointed out that previously the General Headquarters of the army (GHQ) was attacked by the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban and now by the Tehreek-e-Insaf. “Even Indian media is saying that what they could not do in 75 years, the PTI did it,” he added.
“There are other people’s houses in Lahore, but the corps commander’s house was targeted. Imran Khan is targeting the institution of the army. The attackers and those giving instructions to them have been identified from the social media [posts].”
In response to a question, Asif said that the cabinet had not yet decided to impose emergency, but added that if the situation persisted, emergency could be imposed. In response to another question, he said there was no chance of martial law in the country.
In a separate press conference, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also said that during Imran Khan premiership, the opposition politicians were arrested from the court premises but no notice was taken.
The minister said that those who had encouraged terrorists and armed groups would also be called criminals, adding: “If the fastest relief is given to the criminals like Imran, then nobody will be safe from their evil”.
Providing relief to a “terrorist and anti-state person” would encourage and incite others to terrorism,” she added. “Who will provide justice to patients, police, martyrs and armed forces veterans who were attacked by the PTI goons,” she asked.
While referring to Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Rana Sanaullah, Suleman Shehbaz, Hamza Shehbaz, Miftah Ismail and others, the information minister said that Imran was not the first politician arrested by NAB.
“Imran himself used NAB for witch-hunt of political adversaries. He even did not spare sisters and daughters of his opponents,” she said, adding: “All his opponents were arrested in fake cases but no court took notice of the political vengeance.”
Aurangzeb said that the “Ladla” [favourite] had been continuously given special treatment since 2014 and no action was ever taken against him by any court. She added that the courts should have taken notice of Imran’s threats to a respectable female judge.
Meanwhile, talking to Daily City News, former Punjab minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman said that the way the PTI chief was given “exceptional relief” by the Supreme Court, it seemed that he would also be granted “blanket immunity” in all cases.
PML-N’s National Assembly member Syed Javed Hussain took a different view of the situation, saying that the PTI chief had thus far not been extended any relief. “The final decision rests with the Islamabad High Court, which will decide about his bail plea.”