LAHORE - Permission to former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhary to contest election and refusal to Imran Sher Ali, brother of former state minister Abid Sher Ali, to contest election in PP-117, Faisalabad, were important developments that took place at the Lahore High Court last week.

The unconditional apology of former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal over his “contemptuous statements” against Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar during a speech on CPEC in Islamabad and court’s observation that conduct of the former minister would closely be monitored drew attention of many.

Another important petition against exhibition of wild animal/tiger in election campaign by candidates of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was moved to the Lahore High Court last week. Munir Ahmad, a citizen, filed the petition pleading that display of the wild animal at the public meetings was in violation of the election code of conduct issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

He said that candidates openly flouted the code of conduct of the ECP by exhibiting wild cats/tigers during their election campaigns. He said the candidates also violated rights of the wild animals by exposing them to vulnerable environment instead of keeping them in natural environment. The petitioner asked the court to take action against the individuals involved in violating the ECP code and risking the lives of wild animals.

In another petition related to code of conduct, disqualification of former president Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was sought over alleged violation of the Election Act, 2017.

A citizen, Syed Iqtidar Shah, had moved the petition pleading that the election law did not allow any political party to use election symbol of any other party. However, he said Bilawal Bhutto used the symbol of PPP-Parliamentarian, headed by Mr Zardari, on the flags and manifesto of the PPP. He said the act of the respondents was a violation of section 215 (3) of the Election Act 2017. The petitioner asked the court to declare both Zardari and Bilawal disqualified to contest the upcoming general election for violation of the election laws.

However, Justice Shahid Karim of the LHC dismissed the petition seeking disqualification of Zardari and Bilawal as not maintainable. The same petitioner had also asked the court to declare all candidates disqualified who failed to fill column “L” in the nomination papers that required complete copy of passport. He pleaded that most of the candidates had not provided complete details of their passport. However, this petition was also dismissed as not maintainable.

Last week, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan of the LHC dismissed as withdrawn a petition challenging removal of Noorul Ameen Mengal as director general of the Punjab Food Authority.

Previously, the court had sought detailed reply on removal of Mengal as PFA director general but on Thursday the petitioner withdrew his petition after which the court dismissed the same petition as withdrawn.

The petitioner had contended that the government was empowered to appoint director general at the PFA under section 10 of the Punjab Food Authority Act 2011.

The petitioner’s counsel questioned powers of the government to remove the DG of the authority. He argued that the provincial government had no power to remove director of the authority. The board members of the authority however could remove/change authority’s director general, he said.

The counsel said no decision had been taken by the board members of the authority regarding removal of the DG. The interim government removed him from the office by exercising its powers beyond its jurisdiction as its mandate was just to ensure free and fair elections, the counsel submitted.

The bench questioned maintainability of the petition on which the counsel said that it was for the sake of public interest and was not the only matter of public servant’s removal, therefore, they were not required to approach the relevant services tribunal. He prayed to the court to set aside the decision of the interim government regarding removal of Mengal and reinstate him as the authority’s director general. On Friday, an accountability court allowed 14-day physical remand of former principal secretary to prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for his role in the Ashiana housing scheme scam.

NAB officials produced Fawad before the court under strict security arrangements and pleaded to the court to grant his 15-day physical remand.

Fawad was arrested by NAB authorities on Thursday on charges of misuse of authority during his appointment as implementation secretary to former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and causing a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.

During the proceedings, NAB officials told the court that Fawad got Ashiana scheme’s contract suspended. After getting it suspended, he played his role in award of the same contract to Casa Developers against high rate of Rs4 billion, they said.

They said the project was initially given to M/s Chaudhry Latif against very low price of Rs1.5 billion. They said that being secretary to the then Punjab chief minister he misused his authority and caused huge loss to the national exchequer. The government, they said, had to pay Rs6 million as fine to the successful bidder due to cancellation of the contract.

Fawad was also accused of concealing the report of the inquiry committee about the contract from the senior officials due to his mala fide intention. The inquiry committee had been working under the supervision of the then Finance Secretary Tariq Bajwa. According to the findings of the inquiry committee, the contract awarded to Chaudhry Latif and Sons was legal and approved as per rules. The contract of the Ashiana-e-Iqbal project was suspended eight months after it was approved and awarded.

The contractor, Chaudhry Latif and Sons, had paid Rs70 million in advance as mobilisation charges. The work was also in progress when the project was suspended.

The “illegal actions” taken by Fawad Hassan Fawad delayed the project and multiplied its cost. The NAB Lahore summoned the accused on several occasions, but he appeared before the investigation team twice and finally was taken into custody on Thursday afternoon.

Fawad, who was present in the courtroom, denied all allegations of corruption levelled against him and said he had no role in getting the contract suspended. His duty was to get the orders of the Punjab chief minister implemented and he did his duty, he said. He fell into tears while defending his position in the court.

Fawad said that after assuming the charge of principal secretary he never interfered in the affairs of the province. He said he served in Punjab till March 2013. About the Ashiana contract, he said the then chief minister had ordered an inquiry into the contract when discrepancies were found in it.

The counsel for Fawad also submitted an application regarding medical examination of his client by an orthopaedic surgeon and a nephrologist. On this, the court allowed his request and granted 14-day physical remand in the NAB custody, with directives to NAB officials to produce him in the court on July 19.

Former LDA DG Ahad Khan Cheema is on the judicial remand while five others are also facing trial in the NAB court.