Rana Sanaullah, a senior leader of the PML-N, was granted bail by the Lahore High Court on Dec 22nd in a narcotics case levied against him by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF).
Sanaullah was arrested on July 1st while in transit at the Islamabad-Lahore motorway by the ANF for possessing 15kg of heroin – the contraband was allegedly recovered from his car during the arrest. In the FIR, he was charged with Section 9 (C) of Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997. The offence carries a death sentence or life imprisonment or a prison sentence of up to 14 years, and a fine up to Rs. 1 million.
PML-N leaders Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto denounced the arrest as political victimization by the PTI government. In a statement to the media, Shahbaz Sharif claimed that PM Imran Khan orchestrated Sanaullah’s arrest under false allegations.
The ANF stated that arrests are not made without due cause.
On September 20th, a special court for Control of Narcotic Substances dismissed Sanaullah’s bail petition. The petition had been filed on the grounds that Sanaullah’s arrest was politically motivated, and that the prosecution neither presented a witness to the alleged recovery of the contraband from Sanaullah’s car, nor any video evidence despite claims by a state minister. The CNS denied a second bail petition submitted by Sanaullah on Nov 9th.
Sanaullah submitted a post-arrest bail petition in the LHC on Oct 2nd, however the petition was then promptly withdrawn on Oct 4th to be submitted at a later date, after the trial court hearing the drug case issued an order to the Punjab Safe City Authority to preserve video footage of Sanaullah’s transit from the place of his arrest to the office of the ANF.
A second bail petition was filed in early December after CCTV footage recovered from the Punjab Safe City Authority wwas presented as new evidence in the trial court. The petition added that the footage contradicted the prosecutions stance.
The LHC reserved its judgment on Dec 24th. On Dec 26th, the LHC granted Sanaullah bail and ordered two surety bonds of Rs. 1 million each.
On the question of Sanaullah being granted bail for possession of narcotics, a non-bailable offence, Supreme Court Advocate and Sanaullah’s defense counsel, Azam Nazir Tarar, stated that Section 51 of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997, bail shall not be granted under certain circumstances under the order of the Supreme Court. In cases of further inquiry, bail may be granted.
Tarar also pointed out that due proceedings were not noted during recovery of the contraband at the site of arrest – rather, retrieval of the contraband and sealing parcels was all performed 22 km away from the site of the arrest at the ANF office, a practice which was deprecated by the Supreme Court.
Tarar reiterated that the circumstances of Sanaullah’s arrest and the fact that judges were constantly being removed and replaced during the trial for months give credence to the defense’s argument that the arrest was politically motivated.