LAHORE -  Some powerful individuals are among hundreds of the people who have been at large since they were declared proclaimed offenders by courts this year a few of whom are roaming in Pakistan while many others are living abroad.

Among the high-profile proclaimed offenders of the current year are former despot Pervez Musharraf, PTI Chief Imran Khan and Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, an outspoken scholar who leads Pakistan Awami Tehrik.

Hussain Nawaz Sharif and his brother Hassan Nawaz Sharif are would-be proclaimed offenders since proceedings are underway to declare them POs, a term used to name those who flee court trials in criminal cases.

Pervez Musharraf

The man who solely ruled the country for a decade has been declared a proclaimed offender in different cases. Last week, an anti-terrorism court declared former president Pervez Musharraf a PO in judges’ detention case due to his continuous non-appearance before the ATC.

An anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi also declared Pervez Musharraf an absconder on August 31 in the murder case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The court announced its verdict in the BB murder case after 10 years. The ATC, while issuing the perpetual arrest warrants for Musharraf, also ordered the authorities to seize his property.

Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri

An Islamabad anti-terrorism court declared Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri proclaimed offenders in a case related to the attack on Senior Superintendent of Police Asmatullah Junejo in November 2014.

Recently, while resuming hearing of the assault case, the anti-terrorism court noted that the police failed to submit details of the properties belonging to Imran Khan and Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri in three cities. The judge ruled that the ‘absconder’ status for Khan and Qadri would remain intact over their perpetual absence during the proceedings.

Earlier, the court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran Khan, Qadri and other senior leaders of both the parties in connection with FIRs registered against them for the storming of the Parliament House and Pakistan Television (PTV) building.

In July this year, Islamabad ATC had sought details of the properties owned by Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri due to the continuous absence of both the accused.

Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz

Both the sons of ousted PM Nawaz Sharif are likely to get the status of POs since they seem unwilling to face trials in the accountability court.

An accountability court in Islamabad on Monday, accepting a plea to declare the sons of former prime minister proclaimed offenders , issued perpetual arrest warrants for Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz.

The court also separated their trial from other members of the Sharif family. NAB officials had taken a plea to declare Hassan and Hussain Nawaz proclaimed offenders as they did not appear despite issuance of non-bailable arrest warrants. The court also ordered publication of an advertisement in newspapers that Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz were proclaimed offenders .

The accountability court is hearing corruption cases filed by NAB against the Sharif family in connection with three references, including Avenfield, Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investment Ltd.

The country’s law-enforcement agencies are unable to arrest the high-profile POs for one reason or another. On the other hand, police are ordered to hunt down POs aggressively. Only in Punjab, police arrest tens of thousands of POs every year.

For instance, Punjab IGP Arif Nawaz Tuesday directed the police to take every possible step to arrest the criminals who have fled abroad. The police chief strictly directed the officers to ensure arrest of the criminals involved in high-profile cases and those who had fled abroad.

Powerful individuals cannot be touched sans approval of the ‘quarters’ concerned. In ordinary cases, police even detain parents or relatives of the POs if they don’t appear before courts. But police seem helpless when it comes to big names.

Reportedly, more than 200 most-wanted criminals and more than 90,000 proclaimed offenders are at large in the largest Punjab province alone. 

In 2011, the Punjab police had printed and distributed the second edition of the Black Book-2010 that contained the particulars of 263 most-wanted criminals. The first edition of the black book was published in November 2008, which contained the particulars of 338 most-wanted criminals.

An anti-terrorism court also declared two police officers as proclaimed offenders in the Model Town case in August.

The court passed the order after former Lahore DIG Operations Rana Abdul Jabbar and DSP Abdur Rahim Sherazi failed to appear before it despite repeated notices in the private complaint moved by PAT.

The Punjab government forwarded a list of most-wanted terrorists to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government a couple of months ago.

According to officials, the list was shared with law-enforcing agencies and intelligence agencies as well. A total of 22 most-wanted individuals have been added to the list’s ‘first category’.

Among the most-wanted terrorists are Mati-ur-Rahman and Qari Ahsan-ul-Haq. Both belong to banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and carry head money Rs 10 million and Rs 5 million, respectively.