LAHORE - A lawyer who claimed to be a member of the PML-N Lawyers Forum announced joining the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) last week and denounced what he called anti-judiciary stance of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Advocate Shahnawaz Dhilon, who was accompanied by a dozen of his colleagues, made this announcement at a press conference at the Lahore Press Club.

The press conference came just two days before arrival of ousted premier Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam at Lahore International Airport on Friday.

Dhilon said he could not support the narrative of Sharif against the state institutions, pointing out that the legal fraternity was with the judiciary and rule of law. He alleged that Sharif targeted the judiciary and other state institutions in his speeches. He called for enhancement of Sharif family’s punishment, saying they were not culprits of any institution, but the entire nation. He said it was ideology of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf that inspired him to join the party. Advocate Haroon Bhutta and Abdul Hameed were also present there.

Soon after his press conference, PML-N President Naseer Ahmad Bhutta rejected Dhilon’s claim, saying that he had never been an office bearer of the forum. He refused to acknowledge him even as an ordinary member of the forum.

Bhutta said Dhilon was a member of the PML-Q and had served as additional advocate general during the government of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in Punjab.

On Thursday, just a day after this clarification, PML-N Lawyers Forum approached the Lahore High Court against the Punjab interim government and police over arrest of party workers ahead of Sharif’s arrival from the United Kingdom. The lawyers of the forum said the interim government got the party workers arrested and detained them illegally. They informed the court that police refused to share information with them despite their repeated requests to know whereabouts of the arrested workers.

The lawyers said that police threatened families of the arrested workers with consequences in case they approach the court. The workers were arrested without any reason and in blatant disregard for the law, they said. They prayed to the court to order immediate release of the arrested workers of the PML-N and direct the police not to harass them.

On this, LHC Acting Chief Justice Muhammad Anwarul Haq granted bail to 237 workers and ordered the Punjab Police to release all workers detained unlawfully. The court made it clear to police that they should not reflect partiality towards any political party.  The Punjab home secretary, inspector general of police and inspector general of prisons were also present in the courtroom in compliance with the court orders.

Representing the Punjab government, Advocate General of Punjab Imtiaz Rasheed Siddiqui argued that 141 persons were taken into custody under Section 3 of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) while 237 others were arrested on charges of violating code of conduct announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

To a court query, IGP Kaleem Imam said arrests were made to deal with possible threats of terror activities in the province. On this, Justice Haq expressed dismay over non-release of the workers of the PML-N in bailable offence.

“The court has to protect the rights of the citizens,” Justice Haq remarked. The CJ snubbed the IGP and said the police should not act to reflect any partiality towards any political party, with directions to the police chief to immediately release the workers taken into custody unlawfully.

The CJ directed the home secretary to decide the representations of 141 other arrested workers on Saturday.

The other development that was in favour of the PML-N was the Supreme Court’s decision wherein appeal of former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique was allowed against his disqualification on charges of rigging in NA-125 (now NA-131).

A two-member bench consisting of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik announced the short order at the Supreme Court Lahore registry. The bench had reserved the verdict on March 19.

Runner-up candidate of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Hamid Khan had challenged the victory of Khawaja Saad Rafique in 2013 general elections before the election tribunal on charges of massive rigging by the PML-N.

The tribunal had in May 2015 disqualified Khawaja Saad Rafique by declaring results of the election null and void with a direction to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold a fresh election in the constituency within 60 days. However, Rafique challenged the decision before the Supreme Court and got it suspended.

Last week, a senior lawyer also approached the LHC against conviction of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members under the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.

Advocate A.K. Dogar attached an application to an already pending petition, challenging existence of the NAB Ordinance. The lawyer said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others have been convicted by a court which has no jurisdiction because the law under which the court is working lapsed long ago. He argued the high court should suspend operation of the accountability court’s judgement for being a court established under a non-existent law.

Advocate Dogar, in his main petition, had challenged the NAB Ordinance 1999, arguing that the ordinance was promulgated by former military dictator Pervez Musharraf under Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) No.1 of 1999 as well as order No.9 of 1999.

The order No.9 was promulgated only to amend PCO No.1 of 1999 by inserting section 5A (1) in it to the effect that limitation of 120 days prescribed under Article 89 of the Constitution to any ordinance by the president will not be applicable to the laws made under PCO No.1 of 1999, the lawyer said. He said the PCO No.1 of 1999 was declared without lawful authority and of no legal effect under Article 270-AA of the Constitution through 18th amendment.

The lawyer contended that the amendments in it made under order No.9 of 1999 will also be of no legal effects. According to sub-article 2 of Article 270-AA of the Constitution, Dogar said certain laws which were still enforced shall continue to remain enforced unless amended by the competent legislation.

He prayed to the court that after the 18th Amendment and insertion of Article 270-AA in the Constitution, the NAB ordinance ceased to be the law and had become non-existent and a dead letter. He also asked the court to set aside all the proceedings thousands of other lawyers had been facing under the NAB law.

The LHC took up the petition for hearing and asked the lawyer to affix the Avenfield decision of the accountability court with his petition against conviction of Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar.

However, a sessions court last week turned down a petition seeking registration of a treason case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others for his statement about Mumbai attacks during an interview to a local newspaper.

Additional District & Sessions Judge Fayaz Ahmad Buttar passed the order, observing that there was no concept of registration of a case on the basis of such allegations by police and only federal government was competent to look into the matter.

The judge also held that any court or office is not competent to take cognizance on the basis of any petition of a private person containing such kind of allegations, and dismissed the petition for being not maintainable.

Abdullah Malik of Civil Society Network moved the petition pleading that ousted premier Nawaz Sharif gave an ‘anti-state’ statement during an interview published in an English newspaper. He alleged that former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other respondent leaders of his party supported the statement of Sharif and committed treason.

Malik said he approached the Civil Lines Police Station for registration of a case against the respondents but the SHO refused to entertain his application. He asked the court to order the police to register a high treason case against Nawaz Sharif and others.