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PML-N leaders barred from Nawaz hearing, Pak minister threatens to quit

The Rangers said they were under instructions to not allow anyone but former premier Sharif to enter the court.

world Updated: Oct 02, 2017 19:36 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Nawaz Sharif,Panama Papers,anti-corruption court
Pakistani interior minister Ahsan Iqbal speaks to media outside an accountability court in Islamabad on October 2, 2017.(AFP)

Pakistan’s interior minister Ahsan Iqbal on Monday threatened to resign after he and other leaders of the ruling PML-N party were barred from entering an anti-corruption court trying deposed premier Nawaz Sharif.

“Is this a democracy or banana republic?” he asked the media as he tried to make his way through the cordon set up by paramilitary Pakistan Rangers personnel around the court compound.

“There can’t be a state within state,” Iqbal said while adding that it is Sharif’s right to go inside the courtroom with his lawyers and aides.

The Rangers said they were under instructions to not allow anyone but former premier Sharif to enter the court. “Instructions from whom?” replied Iqbal, who added that “as interior minister, your force reports to me”.

Later, speaking to reporters outside the court, Iqbal said, “This morning, the chief commissioner (of Islamabad) informed me the Rangers have taken control of the command and barred entry to anyone except Nawaz Sharif.”

Upholding the view that trials behind closed doors were held only during martial law, Iqbal announced that strict action would be taken against those who “challenged the writ of the government”.

He said, “The Rangers is a force under the interior ministry and they are supposed to work under the command of the civil administration.”

He added, “I will resign as interior minister if it is not established who deployed the Rangers as they’re supposed to be taking orders from me.” He said he could not function as a “puppet interior minister”.

While PML-N leaders were accompanying Sharif for his second appearance before the National Accountability Board (NAB) court, only the deposed premier was allowed into the courtroom.

Sharif had briefly appeared before the judge on September 26, a day after returning from London, where his wife Kulsoom is being treated for lymphoma.

On Monday, the anti-corruption court postponed the indictment of Sharif, his two sons, daughter and son-in-law for a week as his children, who are co-defendants in the case, failed to appear before the Judge Mohammad Bashir.

The Sharifs are facing trial following orders by the Supreme Court after an investigation into the Panama Papers leaks that indicated Sharif’s children owned offshore assets worth millions of dollars.

The Supreme Court disqualified Sharif in July, forcing him to step down, for dishonesty in declaring his assets. Sharif has denied any wrongdoing.

First Published: Oct 02, 2017 19:36 IST