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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the secretary Cabinet Division to place the matter of appointment of Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi as Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) before PM Shehbaz Sharif to reconsider it.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Monday heard Sheikh Rashid’s petition, wherein, he stated that Abbasi has been appointed Special Assistant (with status of federal minister) to Prime Minister of Pakistan vide the notification dated 27-4-2022. He adopted that both the notification and appointment are illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and violative of the principles of good governance and the rule of law.

The IHC bench directed the secretary Cabinet Division to place the matter before the prime minister. Justice Minallah observed, “In case the conviction has not been set aside then the worthy Prime Minister will be expected to reconsider the appointment of respondent no 2 (Abbasi).”

The chief justice noted, “Suspension of the sentence by an appellate court does not in any manner affect the conviction. The distinction between ‘conviction’ and ‘sentence’ has been highlighted by the Supreme Court in “Federation of Pakistan and others v. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif case.”

“In the context of powers of the President vested under Article 45 of the Constitution, the apex Court in the case titled “Min Muhammad Nawaz Sharif v. The State” [PLD 2009 SC 814] has held that effect of grant of pardon, even in full, was not the same as an order of acquittal by a court of law,” said Justice Minallah.

He added, “In the case in hand, it appears that the appeal against conviction is pending before the High Court while the sentence has been suspended. The conviction; therefore, remains undisturbed. If so, then it, prima-facie, appears that a person cannot hold a public office as long as the conviction has not been set aside by a competent court through a judicial process.”

Addressing Rashid, the CJ said that his lawyer would have surely informed him that as per rules, a chief justice could take up a case at any time. He asked Rashid to inform the court within two days whether he had trust in it. He further asked if you have confidence in it, then this court would hear your case and also ask the same from the PTI chairman.

At that Rashid reiterated that he had appeared before the court because he had full trust in it, adding he would also talk to Imran Khan in this regard.

Justice Minallah remarked that one should have respect for the judiciary in his heart. He again asked Rashid to decide by tomorrow whether he had trust in his court. Rashid asserted that he was already decided about the matter.

Petitioner’s counsel inter-alia, drew the attention of this court to order, dated 21.07.2018, passed by the learned Sessions Judge/ Judge Special Court (CNS), Rawalpindi whereby respondent no, 2 (Hanif Abbasi) was convicted and sentenced. The sentence of the respondent was latter suspended by the Lahore High Court vide order, dated 11.04.2019.

The counsel further stated that the appeal is pending and has not been decided as yet. He; therefore, contended that as long as the conviction remains in the field Abbasi cannot hold any public office.

After hearing the arguments, the IHC bench directed the office to issue notices to the respondents for filing reports and para-wise comments within a fortnight and deferred the hearing till May 17 for further proceedings.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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