The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday barred Hanif Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) from functioning as a special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) until the next hearing on May 27.
Former interior minister and Awami Muslim League (AML) head Sheikh Rashid contested Abbasi’s appointment as SAPM on the basis of his 2018 conviction in an ephedrine case, and IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah gave the directions while hearing the petition.
On April 27, Abbasi was appointed as a SAPM with the position of federal minister. He has yet to be assigned a portfolio, however.
On May 9, the court ordered Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to review Abbasi’s appointment “in the event that the conviction is not overturned.”
When the hearing was resumed today, Justice Minallah stated that a guilty individual could not occupy public office.
However, Abbasi’s lawyer, Ahsan Bhoon, contended that the SAPM’s office was not like other government offices.
Bhoon stated that the chief justice’s announcement that the court would prevent Abbasi from acting as SAPM until the next hearing date amounted to “concrete relief” for the petitioner (Rashid).
Justice Minallah, on the other hand, expressed the hope that Abbasi would not exercise his public office until the next hearing.
“The prime minister’s responsibility is to advise him, and he can do that without a notification,” he noted.
The hearing was therefore postponed until May 27.
On May 6, Rashid’s counsel, Barrister Sajeel Shaharyar, filed a petition challenging Abbasi’s appointment, in which the Cabinet Division and Abbasi were named as respondents.
The Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) filed a FIR against Abbasi on July 21, 2012, under Sections 9-C, 14 and 15 of the Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997, for selling 500kg ephedrine to drug traffickers instead of using the restricted substance in medicine, according to the plea.
The two officials of Arafaat Traders, a Karachi-based medicine distribution company to which Abbasi claimed to have supplied 11,000 ephedrine-containing tablets, denied Abbasi’s claim, according to the charge sheet, despite the fact that the same company had previously confirmed to the ANF that Abbasi had provided them with ephedrine-containing tablets.
On July 21, 2018, the CNS Court judged Abbasi guilty of selling 500kg of ephedrine to narcotics smugglers and sentenced him to life in prison with a fine of Rs1 million.
In the case, seven additional defendants were found not guilty.
The punishment was, however, deferred in April of this year.
Rashid stated in his appeal that the Lahore High Court “just stayed the sentence of the Respondent No. 2 [Abbasi] and not the conviction,” adding that “the conviction remained intact for all intents and purposes.”
The petition said that the difference between a conviction and a sentence suspension is as follows: “There is a significant distinction between conviction and sentence in criminal law. Conviction refers to someone being found guilty of the alleged offense(s), whereas sentence refers to the punishment (imprisonment, fine, or both) for that offence.”
As a result, Abbasi is “disqualified from holding public office,” according to the petition.
“A new administration was formed in the middle of April 2022, due to a change in regime, and respondent No 2 was appointed as the special assistant to the prime minister,” it stated.
The petition called Abbasi’s nomination illegitimate, unlawful, and unconstitutional because he was fundamentally unfit for such a high-ranking position.
The petition asked the court to throw down the announcement of Abbasi’s appointment as SAPM.