ISLAMABAD - The top court of the country yesterday issued notices to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others on account of Panama leaks investigation and dismissed a plea seeking court order for banning the protest sit-ins.

The Election Commission of Pakistan, Attorney General for Pakistan and the chairmen of NAB and FBR were also issued notices by the Supreme Court as it began hearing five petitions regarding the Panama Papers, which have overshadowed political landscape of the country for the last several months.

Barrister Zafarullah, Wattan Party chairman, in his petition had requested that there was no need for setting up a probe commission and the Panama issue should be decided by the Parliament.

In an effort to prevent the PTI from holding a sit-in in the federal capital on November 2, he also asked the court to ban all dharnas but the three-member bench led by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali refused to pass an order in this regard.

The court dismissed his petition and in its order said ‘it is premature and does not call for exercising our jurisdiction under Article 184(3) at this juncture.’

The chief justice remarked: “We don’t like to enter into political arena, and if there is failure on the part of executive to protect and maintain the Fundamental Rights of citizens then of course we will intervene, but so far there is nothing about it before us.”

He also said: “We have already declined the government request to constitute (probe) commission (on Panama issue).”

Hamid Khan and Naeem Bukhari had filed two constitutional petition on behalf of PTI Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on August 28, seeking disqualification of PM and members of his family over Panama scandal, and an inquiry into allegations against them.

The bench also heard the petitions filed by Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq, Pakistan Awami Muslim League Chairman Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, advocates Tariq Asad and Barrister Zafarullah on the Panama Papers issue.

The court did not take up these pleas until yesterday when the judges heard this case amid tight security. There was a massive security deployment in and outside the Supreme Court and the policemen were on guard even at Nadra Chowk to deal with any untoward situation.

Imran Khan along with Shah Mehmmood Qureshi, Jehangir Tareeen and other PTI leaders was present during the hearing, while from the government side Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Saad Rafiq, Talal Chaudhry, Danyal Aziz and State Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Zafarullah attended the hearing. Sheikh Rashid and Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Siraj ul Haq were also present.

Advocate Hamid Khan, representing PTI chairman, contended that the PM Nawaz Sharif and his sons and daughter’s name had appeared in the Panama scam for having offshore companies.

He said argued that the PM of Iceland Sigmundur David and a Spanish minister had resigned after their names appeared in Panama leaks. He said the PM Nawaz Sharif twice appeared in the Parliament and offered himself for the accountability and said let the commission be formed, but later on no practical steps were taken in that regard.

He sought apex court direction for setting up of inquiry commission to probe the matter, adding previously the Supreme Court had constituted commissions in cases of Hajj corruption, Pakistan Steel Mills embezzlement and Memogate.

Sheikh Rashid himself argued his petition. The chief of his one man party contended that whole world was looking towards the court and these ‘corrupt, selfish and dishonest’ rulers have destroyed the country.

When the chief justice remarked ‘let the notice be issued on your application’, Rashid said show cause notices be issued to the respondents.

Earlier, during his arguments Barrister Zafarullah also said that PTI ranks can’t infringe his Fundamental Rights, adding they were threatening him. He said no one had stopped PTI workers from holding rallies but it should be held somewhere else, not in Islamabad.

Zafarullah further said they (PTI) were threatening even the judiciary. Upon that, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain remarked that nobody could threaten the courts as the judges were aware of their authority.

Tariq Asad advocate, who wanted apex court direction to restrain PTI from lockdown of Islamabad, was asked to contact the SC Office for numbering his petition.

The court also issued notices to respondents in Asad Kharral’s petition. Asad informed that in April he gave an application to NAB chairman for initiating inquiry of Rs100 billion alleged corruption by the ruling elite but the bureau did nothing about it. The case was adjourned for two weeks.

PTI is seeking disqualification of PM Nawaz Sharif, his son-in-law Captain (r) Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from parliament. JI has not named the PM as a respondent in their petition but has requested the SC to direct the investigating agencies to probe the Panama leaks. Sheikh Rasheed has urged the top court to form a probe commission.

After the court proceeding, the leaders of PTI, JI and PAML, and federal ministers of Defence and Railways talked to the media.

Imran Khan lauded the top court for taking up Panama issue. He said a case in the court against the chief executive of the country was the first step to bring him to the book as no one is above the law. He said Nawaz never presented himself for accountability in the case, and justice delayed meant justice denied.

The PTI chief warned the federal government against house-detaining him ahead of Islamabad lockdown. He said the situation will go from bad to worse if he was confined to his residence, adding, “We have completed all preparations in connection with the upcoming protest.”

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said if others could be disqualified under Article 62 and 63 of Constitution then why not PM Nawaz Sharif. He said corrupt people are ruling the country.

Sirajul Haq said first time all the political parties have knocked the door of Supreme Court and hoped justice would be done. He demanded audit of those who have looted public money.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said due to Imran Khan the judges have refused to sit in the commission. He said there is no justification to lockdown Islamabad when the case is the apex court. He said they would not let Imran derail the democratic system.

He said the government took Panamagate issue on every forum but Imran never trusted state institutions.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said after the Panama Papers, PM Nawaz Sharif had offered himself for accountability and ordered for constitution of probe commission. He said the government was not sacred of the issue and they were ready to appear before all the constitutional institutions.

He asked Imran Khan to explain his investing ‘zakat’ and charity in foreign companies. He also demanded PTI chief inform the nation about the funds of the Shaukat Khanum Hospital.