LHC adjourns PML-Q plea hearing until May 11

Chaudhry brothers have challenged NAB chief’s authority to reopen 20-year old inquiries

Rana Yasif May 07, 2020
Chaudhry brothers have challenged NAB chief’s authority to reopen 20-year old inquiries PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday adjourned the hearing of a petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi challenging the authority of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chief to reopen three 20-year-old inquiries against them until May 11.

Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem headed the two-member bench which conducted hearing of the case, while Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi appeared before the court.

As the proceedings started, Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) president Tahir Nasrullah Warraich raised objection over the bench’s second member Justice Farooq Haider.

Warraich noted Justice Haider had been serving as counsel for the Chaudhry brothers in several cases and implored the court that the judge should detach himself from the bench.

Justice Naeem replied that the matter would be discussed on May 11.

After the hearing of the case, the PML-Q misquoted the LHC order saying the court had issued a notice to the NAB seeking reply on the petition.

Justice Naeem informed Elahi’s counsel that he had just received the file of the case and did not go through them, so was adjourning the hearing until May 11.

The Chaudhry brothers on Wednesday filed the petition against the anti-corruption watchdog chief challenging his authority to reopen two-decade-old inquiries against them in assets beyond means case.

Chaudhry brothers submitted that in year 2000, then chairman of the respondent bureau proceeded to authorise investigation against them on the allegations of misuse of authority, assets beyond means and willful default under National Accountability Ordinance 1999 but failed to find an iota of evidence against them.

The petitioners contended that establishment of NAB, its credibility and partiality and its “use for political engineering” had been a matter of heated debate not only by political parties but also human rights organisations and intelligentsia both at national and international level.

They said that the superior courts of the country had also taken notice of the conduct of the bureau and the manner in which its officials exercised their authority in a number of cases.

The petitioners said that the three investigations were recommended for closure by the investigating officers and the regional board of NAB in 2017 and 2018 when their arch rivals were in power.

However, they said, the NAB chairman approved in 2019 bifurcation of the investigations against them about allegations of assets beyond means 19 years after the investigations were authorised (in 2000).

They contended that the order for authorisation of investigation in the year 2000 was passed in a slip-shod manner on two so-called complaints of which one was anonymous, while the other was without address of the complainant.

They argued that both the complaints proceeded upon general, vague and bald allegations and that too not supported by any evidence worth name on record.

The petitioners stressed they had been regularly declaring their assets in due course before the concerned authorities and holding the properties in their own names belied the existence of any criminal intent.