LAHORE - The Lahore High Court Friday rejected the plea of former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal to postpone proceedings of a case over his alleged anti-judiciary statement until general elections. The court sought written reply till June 29. A three-member bench led by Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi was hearing the case. Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal also appeared before the bench. “Your return to Pakistan is not a favour to the country,” the bench observed while addressing the former minister.  Another member of the bench also reminded him of the recent video that went viral on the social media wherein former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif was shown running on the roads of London.  “Everybody have seen the video of Shehbaz Sharif running on roads of London,” the judge remarked.

The video of his statement was again played on a projector in the courtroom.

Justice Atir Mahmood observed that it was the result of the leniency that a contemptuous statement was made.  The bench made it clear to Ahsan Iqbal that he did not do any favour to the country by coming back from the US but it is Pakistan that gave him honor.  Ahsan Iqbal said 70 per cent of his speech was about the mutual respect and reiterated that he believed in supremacy of law and that he always respected the courts. At this, the bench asked him to explain as to why he targeted the CJP during that event.  “Was that the right moment to speak about it?” the bench asked him while referring to his contemptuous speech.  The counsel of Ahsan Iqbal pleaded the bench that it was election time and every candidate was busy electioneering while his client was attending the court’s proceedings and requested it to accept the plea. At this, the bench observed that it was not wrong to ask about the statement in question.

“Nobody can discuss the conduct of the judges even on the floor of the parliament,” the bench observed.

The bench expressed dismay that speech about the CJP before the foreigners was equal to exposing the country before others.   “Tell us even a single project where there are no allegation of corruption,” the bench said, questioning that “whether holding accountability was wrong?  The court would resume hearing on June 29. In the previous proceedings, the bench turned down his plea not to show his “contemptuous speech” on projector in the courtroom and ordered exhibition of the video. Ahsan Iqbal again reiterated that he always respected the judiciary and said he just made a complaint to the Chief Justice of Pakistan in his speech.

In his explanation, Ahsan had told the court that he could not even think of disgracing the judiciary.

“I am a political worker and a true believer of democracy,” he said and added that in his view democracy could not survive without a strong judiciary.

Referring to his statement in question, the former minister said it was a personal shikwa (complaint), which he made to the chief justice of Pakistan. He said his political rivals dragged his name in the appointment of vice chancellor with mala fide intention. He said his statement was within the constitutional limits.

Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi asked the minster whether conduct of a judge could be discussed in the parliament. The judge further asked Ahsan whether he had read Article 19 of the Constitution (freedom of expression). However, the former minister said he was not a student of law but studied engineering from US. Directing the minister to keep his voice lower, the judge observed that every citizen should have the basic knowledge of the Constitution.