Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) court judge Masood Arshad stopped the hearing of Rana Sanaullah’s case midway on Wednesday after learning that he had been repatriated back to the Lahore High Court (LHC).
Following the development, it emerged that a notification from the Ministry of Law and Justice, dated August 26, had recalled three accountability judges; Masood, judge Mushtaq Ilahi, and judge Muhammad Naeem Arshad.
Judge Naeem Arshad was the duty judge currently presiding over the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case against Maryam Nawaz and her cousin Yousuf Abbas; the Ramzan Sugar Mills case against Shehbaz Sharif; and money laundering cases against Hamza Shahbaz and Salman Shehbaz. He had been tasked with hearing these cases as the main judge was on summer holidays.
Judge Ilahi was not hearing any high-profile cases. He, however, was on the benches hearing a number of National Accountability Bureau cases.
No reason has been mentioned in the order.
“I have just received a Whatsapp message, the Lahore High Court has repatriated me. I cannot lend my expertise to this case any more,” judge Masood Arshad said during today’s hearing against Rana Sanaullah.
The counsel for Rana Sanaullah, while talking to the media outside the court, said that this [development] was unprecedented. “It seems like the government is trying to decide which judge they want the verdict from,” he alleged.
He said that arguments had concluded in the case when the government decided to withdraw the judge through a notification.
PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also criticised the development and termed it as a direct attack on the freedom of judiciary.
“Those who had made the case up against Rana Sanaullah could not bring a single piece of evidence against him, so they did this instead,” she said.
The development comes as former accountability judge Arshad Malik is being investigated by the LHC for being at the centre of a video leak scandal that grabbed headlines last month.
The PML-N accuses judge Malik of convicting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia reference under duress. However, the judge claims he was blackmailed by PML-N supporters.
The order for the judges’ repatriation is from the same day, August 26, when a seven-member administration committee of the LHC held a closed-door meeting to decide the fate of Malik, who was suspended last week.
The Supreme Court, in its judgement on petitions regarding the video scandal, had heavily reprimanded judge Malik for his conduct.
“His admitted conduct emerging from that press release and the affidavit stinks and the stench of such stinking conduct has the tendency to bring bad name to the entire judiciary as an institution,” the judgement read.
“His sordid and disgusting conduct has made the thousands of honest, upright, fair and proper judges in the country hang their heads in shame.”