PakistanPolitics

SC Verdict Revives NAB Cases Against Ex-President and Former Prime Ministers

The Supreme Court, in a landmark 2-1 decision, ruled in favour of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan’s petition, which challenged the modifications made to the country’s accountability laws under the former Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led administration.

 

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) and the head of the three-member bench, was flanked by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. Their final judgment came after over 50 hearings, and it reinstates graft cases against several political heavyweights that had been previously halted due to the said amendments.

 

Significantly, the Supreme Court struck down several changes made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) of 1999. This verdict declared the petition against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendments admissible and all halted inquiries under the anti-graft body have now been reinstated. The court ordered the resumption of all graft cases against political leaders and public office holders, especially those involving amounts less than Rs500 million. The ruling also commanded NAB to return all related case records to the appropriate courts within a week.

 

This judgment underscores that the controversial NAB amendments had infringed on public rights as enshrined in the Pakistani Constitution. With this, high-profile corruption references, including those against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Raja Pervez Ashraf, are slated to make a return to the accountability courts.

 

However, the ruling wasn't unanimous. Justice Shah, from the bench, issued a dissenting note concerning the NAB amendments.

 

A look into the NAB amendments reveals that they had not only cut short the terms for the NAB chairman and its prosecutor general from four to three years but also exempted all regulatory bodies in Pakistan from NAB's oversight. The altered provisions also mandated a three-year term for accountability court judges and obligated these courts to deliver a verdict within a year.

 

Khan’s petition to the apex court had fervently argued that such amendments were in direct violation of the Constitution. He posited that changes to various sections of the NAB law were in contradiction to several fundamental rights, such as Articles 9, 14, 19, 24, and 25, and thus should be rendered null and void.

 

The case, which began with the formation of a special 3-member bench on July 15, 2022, witnessed its inaugural hearing on July 19 of the same year. This was initiated when Khan's legal counsel, Khawaja Haris, lodged an application against the NAB amendments. Both the federation and NAB were subsequently designated as parties in the case.

 

This crucial judgment has set the stage for a political and legal upheaval, ensuring that the nation's top political figures will face the scrutiny of the courts once more.

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