ISLAMABAD - Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had adopted an aggressive strategy against the judiciary in the backdrop of his disqualification, on Tuesday appeared before Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar completely with a defensive approach.

Nawaz appeared in the case regarding land dispute wherein he is accused of illegally transferring 14,394 kanals of Auqaf land in Pakpattan three decades ago in 1986 when he was the chief minister of Punjab.

It was the first time Nawaz appeared before Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who had served as federal law secretary in the tenure of Nawaz when he was prime minister in 1997.

Earlier this year in a case regarding determination of timeframe of disqualification persons under Article 62(1)(f), the CJ had directed Nawaz to present himself in the case so that no aggrieved person left without the right of audience. But the former premier opted not to appear or represent and distanced himself from the case by not making any submissions in the case except mistrust on the bench.

Nawaz arrived in the top court’s Room No 1 at 9:20am along with his party’s 26 leaders and took the middle seat just behind the rostrum while Raja Zafarul Haq and Khawaja Asif sat on the left and right seat respectively.

Prominent among the leaders were Rana Sanaullah, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Javed Abbasi, Rafeeq Rajwana, Barrister Zafarullah, Asif Kirmani, Chaudhry Tanveer, Maryam Aurangzeb, Khuram Dastagir, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.

Disgruntled Barrister Zafar Ali Shah and Ramesh Kumar, who were the active leaders of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) were also present in the court room in other cases but both did not meet Sharif, who was their beacon of politics in the past.

The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar entered the courtroom at exact 09:30am after the staff announced that the court has arrived and as custom all in the honour of the bench. Nawaz also rose from his seat with inconspicuous smile.

The other member of the bench was Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who was member of the Panama Case bench and supervisory judge of implementation. Justice Faisal Arab was also member of the bench who remained silent throughout the case of land dispute.

Before the land dispute case, the bench heard four cases. One of them was encroachment in Banigala.

During hearing of Banigala case, the CJ once again expressed his displeasure on government’s decision, wherein it dispensed with the services of Syed Nayyar Rizvi, former Additional Attorney General (AAG).  Rizvi was keenly active in human rights related cases especially in Banigala case.

“He (Rizvi) used to tell the truth so he was removed. You remove the THE person who stands for justice,” the CJ told another law officer regarding Rizvi adding: “This is what the government does.”

The former prime minister heard the observations against his political rival Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had petitioned and remained successful in getting declaration of Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification from the top court. “Only for the reason that Prime Minister is involved, this matter is being delayed,” the CJ observed.

However, such observations did not bring any kind of happiness to Nawaz and he continuously kept reading a piece of paper which he brought with him.

When the case of land dispute called by the court associate, Advocate Munawar Iqbal Duggal, counsel for Sharif, appeared and informed the bench that Nawaz Sharif is present in the courtroom in compliance with the top court earlier directions.

“Where is Mian Sahab?” asked Chief Justice. Nawaz took to rostrum surrounded by his party’s leader. He placed the same piece of paper on rostrum containing points he was supposed to argue.

The CJ in a polite tone narrated the background and litigation involved in the case. He also told Nawaz Sharif that former Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali had taken up the matter.

Nawaz Sharif denied the allegation and said the matter is 32 years old. On this, the Chief Justice hinted at formation of Joint Investigation Team. However, Nawaz Sharif naively but smilingly requested the Chief Justice not to constitute JIT as his experience with JIT was not pleasant.

The packed court room No 1 t echoed with laughter of audience on the pleading. The Chief Justice and Justice Ahsan also smiled on the reply of Sharif.

Taking a lenient view, the CJ asked him to suggest the alternate forum for probe, adding it could either be by police, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or Anti-Corruption if the former prime minister fears the JIT.

The CJ told Nawaqz that the probe is for him so that a two-time prime minister and one time chief minister could clear himself.

During the hearing, the CJ snubbed Barrister Zafarullah when he tried to apprise the court on behalf of Nawaz. “You are not a practicing lawyer and you don’t know how the court proceeds,” the CJ told him.

When Nawaz said that no such summary was approved either by him or his office, recalled referring to illegal appointment of Qasmi as Chairman PTV, saying the same happened in the Attaul Haq Qasmi case wherein then secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad said that the summaries used to be approved on verbal orders of prime minister.

The presence of PML-N’s leaders also invited the attention of chief justice and in the end of the hearing when Nawaz was leaving the rostrum. The Chief Justice said: “On a lighter vein I want to say something.”

Nawaz worriedly looked back at the Chief Justice who told him if a heavy team of 26 people was required to bring with him. Nawaz replied that he stopped them from joining him and asked only for the company of Raja Zafarul Haq, Khawaja Asif and Barrister Zafarullah.

The Chief Justice said that he is talking in a lighter note that a list of 26 people came seeking permission for visit. “I said all are welcome,” said the CJ adding if Mian Sahab requires support. He also asked where is Khawaja Asif?  Khawaja Asif raised his hand and told the chief justice that he is also present.

Legal experts, who are critiques of judicial activism, termed appearance of three-time prime minister in a three decades old matter ‘mockery’ to civil supremacy. While some of them said that the appearance was only to feed the ego before laying down the robes.