ISLAMABAD: With the Supreme Court set to resume hearing a plea against the Lahore High Court’s order to quash the Rs1.2 billion Hudabiya Papers Mills reference against the Sharif family on Monday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has filed an application seeking postponement of the proceedings till the appointment of its prosecutor general (PG).
A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, is hearing NAB’s plea against LHC’s three-year-old verdict to quash the reference against the family, including Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif. whose name did not surface in the Panama Papers case.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Imranul Haq confirmed to The Express Tribune that the bureau filed the application on Saturday, requesting the court to postpone the proceedings until the appointment of the PG. He said the Hudabiya case was very significant; therefore, it would be appropriate that NAB’s prosecutor general should argue it.
It is learnt that there is a deadlock between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government and the NAB chairman over the appointment. The post has been vacant since last month, when the three-year tenure of Waqas Qadeer Dar ended. Under the law, the federal government must make the appointment after consulting the chairman.
SC to hear NAB’s reopening plea from Monday
Another senior NAB official told The Express Tribune that the filing of cases by the bureau had almost stopped due to the absence of the PG. Under the law, no appeal can be filed without the approval of the PG. He said that in view of a high court order, an additional PG could not work as acting PG.
PTI lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain expressed wonder over the adjournment plea, saying it appeared that footprints of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif still existed in the bureau, therefore, it was reluctant to expedite the matter. Hussain urged the SC to take cognisance of the delay in the appointment.
Last week, NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal sent a list of five lawyers to the government to pick from – Mudasir Khalid Abbasi, Shah Khawar, Syed Asghar Haider, Fasihul Mulk and Nasir Saeed Sheikh. But the government was not interested any of them, sources said.
They said the Sharif family wanted to appoint a lawyer of its own choice, but the chairman was unwilling to accept this. The PML-N proposed the name of Waqar Mir, but the NAB chief did not add it to the shortlist.
NAB reference case adjourned till November 7
A NAB official said the aim of the bureau’s appeal for postponement of the hearing appeared to be to bring the deadlock over the key appointment to the notice of the apex court.
Meanwhile, in compliance with the July 28 order of the top court, NAB has submitted the complete record of the Hudabiya case along with the original complaint. The record of accountability court’s orders, statements of witnesses, etc have also been furnished.
The bureau has also provided the particulars of all NAB chairmen with the dates and procedure adopted for their appointment as well as their qualifications and who their appointing authority was. On the last date of hearing, the bench observed that that information would help understand whether the NAB chairman at the time under consideration could have been influenced by the accused.
Earlier, NAB told the SC that influence of Sharif, being the chief executive of the federation, had resulted in preventing the filing of an appeal before the apex court in the 17-year-old reference. On July 28, the court asked NAB to explain how the family had used influence over the proceedings related to the reference.
Under the law, it is mandatory to file an appeal with 30 days but the bureau has requested the SC that the delay is condoned in the interest of justice, fair play and equity.
In its application, the anti-corruption watchdog maintained that now when the matter was before the SC, justice required that the “impugned judgment be scrutinised on the touchstone of precedents” set by the top court. “No doubt an accused is the favourite child of law, but keeping in view the shape of the scale of justice the complaint is also not devoid of the court’s justice,” said the application.
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