ISLAMABAD: In a major development, accountability courts have withdrawn 50 major corruption cases against suspects, including cases against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The relief has been provided in line with the amendments in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws. Legal experts believe that technically these cases had ceased to hold ground as the federal and provincial government were no more interested in prosecuting the accused under the NAB law. And biggest beneficiary among the accused have been Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Hamza Shehbaz.
Accordingly, cases against PM Shehbaz, former chief minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani have also been returned to NAB by the accountability courts.
The Ramzan Sugar Mill reference against PM Shehbaz and son Hamza is also among the cases sent back. NAB had filed this reference in 2019, alleging that the two suspects “fraudulently and dishonestly” caused a Rs213 million loss to the national exchequer.
Similarly, an accountability court returned six rental power plant (RPP) references against the NA speaker back to NAB. The bureau had alleged that Ashraf misused his powers in rental power projects being the minister for Water and Power during the PPP government.
The Universal Services Fund (USF) reference against PPP Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani in which he was accused of misusing authority in an illegal publicity campaign, was also returned.
NAB references against Senator Saleem Mandviwala, former chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, and PPP Senator Rubina Khalid have also been returned.
Following the amendments of NAB rules, the references in Modaraba scams and company frauds have also been withdrawn from the accountability courts.
Talking to daily Pakistan Today, Shah Khawar Advocate said that following the amendments in the NAB law, the jurisdiction of accountability courts over these references had ended and the courts could no more try the accused under the NAB law.
Asked whether these cases would hold no ground now, Shah Khawar Advocate said that every case had its distinctive nature and would be dealt with accordingly.
“The accountability courts are sending back the references to the NAB Chairman and these cases would now could be sent to the concerned departments. If the accused is a government official serving in the federal government, the cases may be sent to the FIA for further probe. In case of a provincial government official, the matter could be sent to the provincial anticorruption department,” he said and added that the accused were no more accused of the NAB.
In August, the National Assembly passed the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022, which sought to exclude private transactions from the scope of NAB.
Under the amended bill, the pecuniary jurisdiction of NAB had been fixed to only take action against mega scandals. Furthermore, it had been proposed that supplementary references can only be filed with the permission of the court to expedite the proceedings of the court within one year.
As per the bill, the investigation officers shall not harass any person during the investigation or inquiry and they will confine their questions relevant to the investigation or inquiry or for extracting evidence.