Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday sentenced a senior leader of the jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party for contempt of court, disqualifying him from holding public office for five years, months after he made anti-judiciary remarks.
The Supreme Court had initiated contempt proceedings against the fire-brand Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Tallal Chaudhry for his "derogatory and contemptuous speeches/statements" against the judiciary during a rally in January.
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmad, sentenced Chaudhry till the rising of the court and also imposed a fine of Rs 100,000. The apex court found the former state interior minister guilty of violating Article 204 of the Constitution, a newspaper reported. As a result of his conviction, Chaudhry is ineligible to contest elections for the next five years, it said.
Chaudhry was ordered by the apex court to ensure his presence during the proceedings on Thursday, which were based on a suo motu notice on his 'anti-judiciary' speech during a party rally in Jaranwala in January this year.
Chaudhry had contested the July 25 general election from NA-102 (Faisalabad-II) but lost to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Nawab Shair by nearly 12,000 votes.
During his speech at a PML-N rally, Chaudhry had demanded removing the judges of the apex court, alleging, "they will not give justice but will continue their injustices."
On February 1, Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar had taken suo motu notice of "contemptuous speeches", and on February 6, the top court issued Chaudhry a show-cause notice, ordering him to file his response.
On July 11, the apex court, after hearing Chaudhry's arguments, had reserved its judgement, which it delivered on Thursday.
While speaking to the media outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, Chaudhry said, "I accept this verdict if it increases the court's standing." He also vowed to file a review petition against the verdict. He also claimed that the contempt case had negatively impacted his poll performance.
He said the people in his district "had difficulties making a decision", and that his opponents had taken advantage of the opportunity by campaigning on his expected disqualification. "If this decision had been made earlier, then my party would have had a chance to select another candidate who didn't have this kind of hanging sword over his head. The results could have been even better," he claimed.
Chaudhry's conviction follows those of other PML-N leaders who, in their defence of party supremo and deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, made derogatory remarks against state institutions.
Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in jail in a corruption case in July by an anti-graft court.
In June this year, the top court, on a similar case, sentenced former federal privatisation minister and PML-N leader Daniyal Aziz for contempt "till rising of the court".
The contempt judgement also led to similar automatic disqualification from Parliament for five years and restrained Aziz from contesting the July 25 election.
Earlier in 2018, the Supreme Court had sentenced then-PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi to jail on contempt charges over his controversial remarks against the judiciary.