Islamabad, Oct 28: Several respondents, including Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, to a case of contempt of court in deporting former premier Nawaz Sharif were in a mode of denial.
Almost all the respondents have pleaded not guilty before the Supreme Court, which taking suo motu cognizance issued notices to the Prime Minister, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and top officials, saying the deportation of Mr Sharif was in clear violation of a previous court order to the contrary.
Mr Sharif was deported to Saudi Arabia when he tried to stage a comeback on September 10.
Mr Aziz submitted before the court that he was not party to any alleged conspiracy or action to disobey the August 23 order of the apex court allowing an unhindered return of Mr Sharif.
He also sought removal of his name from the list of contemnors.
The Punjab chief minister explained that the heavy security deployment was by no means aimed at thwarting the return of the PML-N leader.
However, The News quoting sources reported that the Foreign Ministry hinted that the Prime Minister knew about the deportation plan.
Both Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and his additional secretary/chief of protocol Nazir Hussain have talked of Mr Aziz's ''verbal instructions'' for the requisition of an aircraft from PIA and its placement at Islamabad Airport, the paper reported.
In another interesting twist, while the top foreign ministry officials denied that they were aware of the destination of the same aircraft, PIA chairman Zaffar A Khan submitted in his reply before the Supreme Court that the aircraft used for Mr Sharif's deportation was chartered by the Foreign Ministry's protocol section.
Similarly, other respondents also tried to shift responsibility denying their role in the operation.
The Interior Secretary, in his reply containing a statement of additional director immigration at Islamabad Airport Syed Kalim Shah, claimed that the government had no role in the deportation and some ''unidentified'' persons had taken Mr Sharif.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) put the ball in the Air Force's court, saying PAF operates Islambad Airport's control tower. The National Accountablility Bureau's investigator Lt Col (retd) Azhar Mahmud Qazi, who went to the Rawal Lounge for the execution of the arrest warrant against Mr Sharif, said ''someone else was handling the issue''.
The next date of hearing in the case is October 30. A seven-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is hearing the case.