September 14, 2023
ISLAMABAD – Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said on Wednesday that the decision to handcuff PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif upon his return to the country lied within the purview of law enforcement agencies (LEAs), who would make the decision according to the applicable legal provisions.
A day ago in London, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif had announced that his brother would return to the country on October 21. Nawaz was convicted in the Al-Azizia Mills and Avenfield corruption cases in 2018. The cases are still sub-judice.
Nawaz had left the country in November 2019 on medical grounds following his conviction but never returned. His departure took place approximately 20 days after the Islamabad High Court’s order, which had granted him temporary relief on medical grounds in the Al Azizia case.
In Feb 2020, the then government had declared him an absconder, and later in the same year, an accountability court had declared him a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana vehicles reference.
On August 10, Shehbaz was asked about the possibility of the caretaker government “creating any issues” for Nawaz upon his return, to which he had replied that the elder Sharif would “face the law”. “Nawaz Sharif will, God willing, come to Pakistan and face the law, there are no two opinions on it,” the PML-N president had said in London later in August.
Today, when questioned about the issue in an interview on Samaa TV show Nadeem Malik Live and whether the PML-N supremo would be handcuffed or not on his return, PM Kakar said: “The law enforcement agencies (LEAs) will decide this matter in light of the law. If they think he (Nawaz) should be chained then they will adopt that path and vice versa.”
He said this was the discretion that the leadership of LEAs exercised, adding that he hoped “they do it to the best of their ability”.
When asked about growing apprehensions about a likely scenario of Nawaz being arrested upon his return, the prime minister said he was not taking the matter as a “challenge” for himself since he could not decide the issue of the PML-N supremo being behind bars or being free to move according to own wishes.
“I reiterate that the leadership of legal and law enforcement agencies is present. Whatever they decide, whether they send him (Nawaz) behind bars or allow freedom of movement, it will be the decision of the leadership of the judicial process and law enforcement.”
PM Kakar said the government would intervene where it felt the two entities two were defying the law.
Asked a similar question on the treatment meted out earlier today to PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was brought handcuffed to court for proceedings in the cipher case, the premier said he had a cordial relationship with him.
He added that it needed to be seen whether the law permitted anyone to be handcuffed, saying if the law permitted it then it was correct and vice versa.
ECP has prime mandate
On today’s development of President Dr Arif Alvi sending a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja proposing that elections be held by November 6, Kakar said the “prime mandate” for giving the election date lay with the ECP.
“The president has suggested a date. They (ECP) will do their due diligence and deliberations on it and the required conditions to conduct free and fair polls. I think the ECP will soon announce [the date] after coming to a conclusion on what will be the appropriate day and date [for elections].”
He added that realistically, if the delimitation process proceeded smoothly then any day could be chosen as the election date between the middle and end of January.
Kakar said the caretaker government was “completely ready” to support the electoral process, adding that the interim set-up’s role was to assess the process and “our preparation is more or less almost complete.”