LAHORE   -   Former prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Monday refuted the allegations levelled in a writ petition filed in the Lahore High Court seeking initiation of treason proceedings against the ex-PMs and a journalist.

A three-member bench, headed by Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi and consisting of Justice Atir Mahmood and Justice Chaudhry Masood Jahangir, heard the petition lodged by Advocate Azhar Siddiq over a controversial interview of the former prime minister to an English newspaper and adjourned the hearing till November 12.

In the last hearing, the bench had ordered Abbasi and Sharif to submit their written replies to the court. Former premier Abbasi appeared before the bench, but Nawaz didn’t.

Nawaz Sharif who could not turn up said in his reply submitted by his counsel that an allegation as grave as treason is unimaginable. He further stated in his reply, “In my head, several questions are arising as to whether the Pakistani nation is also treacherous and whether the patriotism of the millions who voted me into power is also questionable.”

He further questioned, “Can those who make the country supreme be treacherous? Can those who eliminate terrorism from the country be treacherous?” He said, “I belong to the family which migrated to Pakistan and this country’s soil is more valuable to me than my life.”

Likewise, ex-premier Abbasi denied the allegations against him as false, baseless and based on lies. He said, “I did not speak to Nawaz regarding the National Security Council (NSC) meeting and discussed only the party matters with him.” He added, “The news report mentioned in the petition is also incorrect.”

Meanwhile, the petitioner’s counsel said, “Almeida in his reply has stated that he published what Nawaz Sharif had said. Quoting a book “The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence," written by Elias Davidsson, a German author, he said the writer states in the book that Pakistan had nothing to do with the Mumbai attacks. He further termed Abbasi’s reply submitted in the court diplomatic.

Meanwhile, Justice Mazahar questioned why Nawaz did not appear in the court and remarked he should have appeared for the hearing. Nawaz’s counsel Naseer Bhutta replied the court had sought a reply which had been submitted.

Justice Naqvi then said Mr Abbasi respected the court and was present. The counsel for Nawaz replied, “My client has not appeared and it does not mean that he does not respect courts.”

Justice Naqvi stated, “If Nawaz was unable to appear today for whatever reason, you should have sought exemption.” Bhutta replied that during the first hearing he got an impression that Nawaz was required to appear only once before the court. Hearing of the case was adjourned until November 12.

In the last hearing, Deputy Attorney General Mian Tariq representing the federal government told the LHC that the matter of the petition seeking initiation of treason proceedings against the respondents was related to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra). Justice Jehangir replied, “Pemra’s job is to prevent broadcasts of speech. Taking action under Article 6 is the government’s job,” Justice Jahangir noted and remarked, "This is a sensitive issue.”

The petition says that on May 11, 2018, Nawaz Sharif during his interview to Cyril Almedia stated that those who attacked a hotel in Mumbai actually belonged to Pakistan. The statement of Nawaz could be used against Pakistan by the enemies of the state, the petition adds.

It quotes Sharif in the petition as saying: “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors; should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”

“A meeting of National Security Council was held to discuss the misleading media statement of the disqualified prime minister regarding the Mumbai incident on May 14, 2018. Following the meeting the then prime minister Abbasi met Nawaz Sharif and conveyed the concerns of the military leadership to him regarding the Mumbai attacks, which is clear-cut violation of his oath as he is bound not to allow his personal interests to influence his official conduct,” the petition says.

It further adds Nawaz rejected the statement of National Security of Council, committing sedition. In addition, disclosure of details of the NSC meeting by Abbasi to Nawaz Sharif is equally liable for an action under the law. The petitioner appealed to the court that high treason proceedings may be initiated against the respondents.

Earlier, amidst tight security in and outside the court premises, former prime minister Abbasi entered the courtroom. The lawyers present there gave a warm welcome to him with pro-Nawaz slogans and expressing solidarity with the Sharif family. There were high security measures taken around the LHC premises, with a contingent of Rangers and police personnel deployed showing great vigilance at the entry and exit points.