September 15, 2023

Pakistan Supreme Court restores corruption cases against public office holders

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday struck down amendments to the country’s accountability law, and ordered restoration of all corruption cases against public office holders that had been dropped after the changes.

The judgment came on a plea filed by former prime minister Imran Khan last year, challenging the amendments brought in by the previous Shehbaz Sharif government.

In his petition, Imran had claimed that amendments had been brought in to benefit the influential accused persons and legitimise corruption. “The amendments to the National Accountability (Bureau) Ordinance is tantamount to depriving the citizens of Pakistan access to law to effectively question their chosen representatives in case of breach of their duty towards the people of Pakistan,” the petition argued.

The ruling could have far-reaching implications as it would restore graft cases against the country’s political bigwigs, including former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime ministers Yusuf Raza Gilani, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Raja Pervez Ashraf.

The outgoing government made several amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 last year, including limiting the NAB to handle corruption cases involving Rs500 million or more.

The court said: “All inquiries, investigations, and references which have been disposed of on the basis of the struck down sections are restored to their positions prior to the enactment of the 2022 Amendments and shall be deemed to be pending before the relevant fora.”

It also directed the NAB and accountability courts to proceed with the restored proceedings in accordance with the law.

“The NAB and/or all other fora shall forthwith return the record of all such matters to the relevant fora and in any event not later than seven days from today which shall be proceeded with in accordance with law from the same stage these were at when the same were disposed of/closed/returned,” the court order added.

Speaking to the media outside the SC, lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said that the first order of business of the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government was to introduce amendments to the NAB laws.

He further said that cases that were below Rs500m had been restored after today’s verdict. He further said that the previous government had introduced several changes in order to benefit itself.

“The amendments were prepared by the Sharif family’s personal lawyers,” he said adding that the NAB was still being used to target Imran.

The coalition government led by the PML-N had introduced 27 key amendments to NAO, but President Dr Arif Alvi did not accord his assent to these. However, the bill was adopted in a joint sitting of parliament and notified later.

The petition pleaded that the fresh amendments tend to scrap corruption cases against the president, prime minister, chief ministers and ministers and provide an opportunity to the convicted public office-holders to get their convictions undone.

Daily Dawn – September 15, 2023

Highlights from Supreme Court’s verdict 

Syed Talal Ahsan

In a 2-1 verdict, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday ordered the restoration of corruption cases against public office holders that were withdrawn after amendments were made to Pakistan’s accountability laws last year.

The reserved verdict was announced by a three-member bench comprising the outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s petition challenging amendments made to the accountability laws.

The judgment came after 53 hearings were conducted on the ex-prime minister’s plea.

In the order, CJP Bandial and Justice Ahsan declared the petition to be maintainable while Justice Shah disagreed with the majority verdict, according to which not just the corruption cases but also the inquiries and investigations were directed to be restored.

The detailed court verdict, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said the bench was primarily concerned with the amendments made in 2022, adding they had “indeed brought about a significant change in the legal position under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance”.

It said Imran had sought the nullification of almost all of the amendments made in 2022. “However, on a careful examination of these, we are not convinced that the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan are violated by each and every section,” the order reads.

It said that judicial scrutiny of only Sections 2, 8, 10, and 14 of the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2022 (from here on referred to as First Amendment) and Sections 2, 3, and 14 of the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act, 2022 (from here on referred to as Second Amendment) was required.

Continued on page 2/3

 

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