ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court has ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate former president and army chief General (retd) Pervez Musharraf for allegedly accumulating assets beyond his known means of income.
IHC Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb have ruled that the former military dictator is amenable to be proceeded, investigated, tried and convicted under the NAB Ordinance of 1999 if there is evidence that he committed an offence.
The former president was previously protected from prosecution due to his being a serving military officer and also head of state.
“Gen (retd) Musharraf is amenable to be proceeded under the Ordinance of 1999 and thus investigated, tried or convicted,” the bench stated in its order. With the ruling, the IHC has confirmed that everyone, including retired military officials, can be tried under NAB laws if found involved in corruption or corrupt practices.
Previously, a handful of senior military officials, most notably former naval chief Admiral (retd) Mansurul Haq, Maj Gen (retd) Khalid Zahir Akhter, and Lt-Gen (retd) Muhammad Afzal Muzaffar have faced NAB cases. Haq’s case ended with a $7.5 million plea bargain, while the latter two were found guilty by a court in the NLC scam.
The division bench held that Musharraf can be tried because of “two eventualities; firstly, for having held the Constitutional post of the President of Pakistan and secondly, clause (vi) of section 5(m) of the Ordinance of 1999 is attracted because he had resigned and stands retired from the Armed Forces of Pakistan.”
The judgment was issued on Thursday.
The order has come in response to a petition filed by Colonel (retd) Inamul Rahiem, wherein he sought IHC directions for NAB to initiate an inquiry against Musharraf as the assets he had declared in his nomination papers were beyond his known sources of income.
“Across-the-board accountability is an onerous statutory obligation of the Bureau under the mandate of the Ordinance of 1999,” the judgment read, continuing to say that “public trust and confidence is the hallmark of effective and result-oriented accountability.”
Justice Minallah, who authored the judgment, stated, “It is the duty of the bureau to consider any information or complaint laid before it by a citizen and then to fulfil its statutory obligations by proceeding under the Ordinance of 1999 in a fair and transparent manner without fear or favour.”
In the judgment, the court said that the “bureau is vested with the power and jurisdiction to consider the complaint of the petitioner and after such consideration if it is of the opinion that an offence under the Ordinance of 1999 is prima facie made out, then it will become a duty of the latter to proceed to inquire, investigate and take all other steps mandated under the Ordinance of 1999.”
The petitioner had previously filed a complaint before NAB for initiating an inquiry against Musharraf after accusing him of having assets beyond his known sources of income and not declaring them in his nomination papers.
On April 25, 2013, the bureau had informed the petitioner that his complaint could not be entertained for want of jurisdiction because, as a member of the armed forces, Gen Musharraf was immune from being proceeded against under the NAB Ordinance, 1999.
Rahiem, however, had argued before the court that Musharraf was not immune from being accountable under the NAB laws.
Answering a question on whether the bureau has jurisdiction to inquire into or to investigate the alleged offences of corruption or corrupt practices against Musharraf, the court ruled that a member of the Armed Forces who has also been president of Pakistan cannot claim immunity or exemption from being subjected to the Ordinance of 1999.
Likewise, it added, a member of the Armed Forces after retirement or resignation becomes exposed to being proceeded against under NAB laws because the immunity ends upon the end of service.
“We are satisfied that the Bureau has indeed erred in misinterpreting the provisions of the Ordinance of 1999 by refusing to consider and entertain the complaint, which had been filed by the petitioner,” the bench stated. Subsequently, the court declared NAB’s letter of April 25, 2013, as illegal.
A lawyer appearing on behalf of Musharraf had requested that he may be given audience. The bench, however, said that neither could his power of attorney be entertained nor could he be heard because Musharraf has been declared a proclaimed offender by competent courts.
It is settled law, the judgment read, that a person who is a fugitive from the law and who does not surrender to the process of justice is neither entitled to any relief nor can a power of attorney executed by him in favour of a counsel be accepted, except under exceptional circumstances.
Musharraf came to power in a military coup in October 1999 and served as the 10th president of Pakistan from 2001 till tendering his resignation in 2008. He resigned from the military post of chief of army staff in November 2007. He continued to hold the constitutional post of president of Pakistan until August 2008.