LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Tuesday directed its registrar office to serve notices on 26 top politicians of the country, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, former presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Pervez Musharraf, Bilawal Zardari, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Husain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi through proclamation in newspapers requiring them to appear before the court to submit their points of view on their alleged assets abroad.

The summons through media decision was taken on Tuesday after some of the respondents refused to accept the summons sent earlier to them on their respective addresses.

A lawyer had moved the LHC back in 1996, alleging that the respondents were keeping their assets abroad at a time when the country was facing serious economic problems and was forced to seek loans from other countries.

Though a coincidence,  the petition has come up for hearing at a time when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who is also a close relative of the Sharifs, told the parliament that various Pakistani people had parked as many as $200 billion in Swiss banks.

The minister has assured the house that the government would make serious efforts to bring the money back. However, other reports say that the procedure is quite complicated and it would not be possible for the government to get back the stashed money at least during the next five years.

When Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan took up the long pending petition for hearing, he was told that many of the respondents were reluctant to receive the summons or were dissociating themselves from the matter with the court.

Now the matter will be taken up on June 16, by which time the government would have announced its second budget and shared with the nation the loans it would be getting to overcome its economic difficulties.

Critics are already alleging that the PML-N government has mortgaged next three generations for the loans it is getting for various projects. 

The petition for clawing back the assets abroad of the politicians was moved by Barrister Iqbal Jaffery.

The politicians who were issued the notices earlier included Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Mrs Kalsoom Nawaz, son Hassan Nawaz, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif; PTI chairman Imran Khan and his former wife Jemima Khan; former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and Begum Yousaf Raza Gillani; former prime minister late Benazir Bhutto (through her husband former president Asif Ali Zardari); PPP chief Bilawal Zardari; Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz Hussain; Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan; PML-Z chairman Ijazul Haq; ex-minister Humayun Akhtar Khan;, former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi; ex-interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat; PML-Q and former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Husain; ex-chief minister Ch Pervaiz Elahi;  Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan; former Punjab governor Malik Ghulam Mustafa Khar; former interior minister Rehman Malik; JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman; former president Gen Pervez Musharraf; Senator Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan his wife Bushra Aitzaz and former Supreme Court Bar president Asma Jehangir.

At the outset of the proceedings, the court was informed that the respondents were issued notices through affixation or through their secretaries but some of the politicians refused to accept the court’s notices.

The court was further told that respondent Malik Riaz had been served through his admin officer. Former commerce minister Humayun Khan had refused to accept notice through his legal officer saying that they had no concern whatsoever with this case. Mian Shahbaz Sharif had been served. Ch. Shujaat Hussain refused to accept notice but he had been served through affixation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, spouse Kalsoom Nawaz and son Hussain Nawaz had refused to accept notice through their employees.

The service of one of the respondents Shah Mahmood Qureshi had not been effected due to inaccuracy of the postal address. However, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani had been served through his secretary.

Justice Khalid Mahmood observed during the proceedings that the case was of tremendous public interest and that the respondent politicians should be served notices through proclamation in newspaper. The notices would, however, be served on them in their personal capacity.

Barrister Jaffery, the petitioner, says the politicians had transferred public money to their foreign accounts, causing a big loss to national exchequer. He said that the court had ordered them several times to submit their replies, but to no avail.