ISLAMABAD: The top court has thrown out the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) review petition against rejection of its plea for reopening the 18-year-old Rs1.2 billion Hudabiya Paper Mills scam case against the Sharif family.
“No ground of review is made out,” remarked the three-judge special bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, after hearing the arguments given by Deputy Prosecutor General Imranul Haq for more than two hours.
Legal experts believe that it’s a big relief for the Sharif family as their opponent considers Hudabiya Paper Mills case as the mother of all corruption cases against them. The 18-year-old Hudabiya Paper Mills case had been in the headlines for two years.
In 2014, the Lahore High Court (LHC) quashed the Hudabiya Paper Mills reference against the Sharifs. After a passage of three years, NAB filed an appeal against the LHC order in September 2017.
Interestingly, in the Panamagate case judgement, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had raised serious questions over quashing of Hudabiya case by the LHC.
Justice Khosa’s 192-page report had directed NAB to proceed against father-in-law of former premier Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Ishaq Dar in connection with the Hudabiya Paper Mills reference wherein he was not an accused person when the said reference was quashed by the LHC, which also barred reinvestigation and set aside Dar’s confessional statement.
Top court throws out 'frivolous' NAB petition against Sharifs' pleas
Former NAB deputy prosecutor general Raja Amir, who was present in the courtroom on Monday to witness the proceeding, said the NAB was not prepared to respond to queries of the bench. The NAB could not tell the act committed by the accused, which could constitute commission of offence. Likewise, they could not explain the ‘status’ of Dar’s confessional statement. Even the NAB could not produce it before the bench, he added.
Raja said judgement in the Hudabiya Paper Mills case got finality and “it’s a big victory for Sharifs as well as for Dar”.
During the hearing, the bench asked NAB that for how long it would hang the Sword of Damocles on the accused (Sharif family members) for an offence committed in 1992. The court also asked as to who debarred the NAB from completing Sharif family’s prosecution after filing of reference in 2000, when General (retd) Pervez Musharraf was ruling the country.
The bench also noted that there was no such direction regarding the investigation of Hudabiya case in the Panamagate’s larger bench verdict.
“If there is a direction regarding reinvestigation then why they moved an appeal against the LHC judgement, quashing a reference against the Sharif family,” remarked Justice Mushir Alam, adding that there was no restriction on Panamagate’s larger bench to give direction under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution regarding reinvestigating the matter to pursue complete justice.
Justice Isa asked the NAB’s attorney to explain the nature of the crime in this matter.
Upon this, Haq replied that it was a case of having assets beyond known sources of income.
Terming it a general observation, the judge asked to point out specific material which could justify the nature of the offence.
Justice Isa also asked if opening a foreign currency account was a crime.
“You are fighting someone else’s battle,” said Justice Isa over NAB’s plea to expunge remarks in the detailed judgement dealt as how Gen (retd) Musharraf had ousted a democratically-elected government on Oct 12, 1999 as the then army chief and proclaimed emergency on Oct 14, 1999, put the Constitution in abeyance, suspended the Senate, national and provincial assemblies, dismissed the prime minister, all the governors, chief ministers, federal and provincial ministers and also issued a Provisional Constitution Order (PCO).
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Justice Isa also said that they should not shy away from narrating the history of Pakistan.
“Why is the NAB destroying its credibility? Are you Musharraf’s lawyer,” he asked. "I think you are not Musharraf’s lawyer."
Justice Isa also asked whether the NAB moved a review petition with the approval of its board or someone else.
He also asked whether the NAB took action against Musharraf for sending its accused persons (Sharifs) into exile.
The judge also noted that in view of the review, it could be assumed that the NAB could not proceed against the existing president and prime minister.
The bench asked several times to point out any error in the judgement under review, but the NAB attorney could not do so.
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