In a letter from death cell, Rana recalls events leading to his arrest and afterwards

ISLAMABAD: A senior opposition leader jailed for allegedly possessing narcotics, a crime punishable with death, has said he was victim of a conspiracy hatched more than one and a half months ago due to his political activism. In a letter from Camp Jail a week ago, Lahore, Rana Sanaullah, said he had been kept in solitary confinement in a cell reserved for those on death row.

“I have been detained in a death cell. None is allowed to meet me except the family members. Other than them, only prison officials can see me. Anyway, this too shall pass,” he wrote.

Rana, president of Punjab Pakistan Muslim League N, said it was mid-May when he was first alerted by a well-wisher who had connections in the decision-making circles. “Being a prime target, efforts are in progress to implicate you. Since nothing has been found where NAB or FIA could proceed against you, they may frame you somewhere on the road,” Rana was told.

With kidnapping and torture of 2003 still afresh in mind when his head, eyebrows and moustaches were also shaved off, Rana feared a repeat of that incident. His immediate reaction was to enhance police security, which was deputed with him since a campaign was launched against him on fabricated allegations of blasphemy. As three weeks passed without any unpleasant occurrence, Rana returned to the source to check whether the threat was over.

But his answer was in the negative. “You have been chased 3-4 times but nothing could be done in the presence of the police squad. Now your security will be withdrawn,” the source told Rana. His words rang true. In the third week of June, Regional Police Officer Faisalabad ordered withdrawal of Rana’s security.

This was the time when efforts were afoot to create divisions within the PML-N and Rana being president of the party’s Punjab Chapter was vocal in thwarting such attempts. He did not contain his movement and instead hired guards from a private security agency.

Meanwhile, a group of six MPAs of PML-N came forward to announce defection and it was claimed that another 20 provincial lawmakers will follow them. Rana took a stand and asked party workers to surround the residences of defectors under his leadership. Apparently the tactic yielded result. Some of the defectors changed their minds and appeared before the media to deny shifting of loyalties.

On the day of arrest, Rana was going from Faisalabad to preside a party meeting in Lahore when intercepted by the ANF officials. “My driver was forced out and an ANF officer sat in his place. Another couple of officials also made their way into the vehicle that was taken to ANF office. My security guards and I were detained there and next day presented before the court. There I came to know about the allegations of the recovery of heroin from my vehicle,” says Rana.

Before that, “I was neither told about it nor any investigation carried out,” he wrote in his letter. The security guards are also languishing in jail now. Contrary to claims of Narcotics Minister Sheheryar Afridi and DG ANF, no video has been produced about the recovery of heroin despite the official claim about Rana’s admission about narcotics as per the challan presented before the court. “Had that been the case, either my statement should have been recorded under 164 before the judge or the video should have been played,” he argues. It has been claimed that I have been part of a narcotics network but no person of that alleged network has been produced as a witness, he goes on. Contrary to this, the ANF officials are complainant and witness both, Rana points out.

In his letter written a week before the accountability judges’ transfers, he also alleged that regular ANF judge had also been stopped from conducting his case over fears that the judge might take a lenient view against him.

“District and sessions judge Masood Arshad had been conducting ANF court for the last two years and five months. “He still had seven months to complete his three-year tenure. Then on July 12, a letter was written to to the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court for his transfer on the grounds that the judge’s neutrality was doubtful. He has been stopped from working lest he may grant me the bail.” But, Rana vows, “he remains defiant despite hardships.”

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