ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) can no longer challenge the accountability court’s decision to bury the corruption references against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other family members.
In the third week of September the accountability court (AC) had rejected a petition requesting that corruption references against the Sharif family be revived. This decision could have been challenged within 10 days but the deadline passed on September 29.
This is the second time during the current year that NAB did not challenge AC’s orders rejecting further proceedings in high profile corruption references, a move that is tantamount to burying these corruption cases.
Former deputy prosecutor general, NAB, Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri said that the order of the accountability court had attained finality after the prosecution did not file an appeal against it in the high court within the specified time.
According to him, these references are not alive anymore and have become a past and closed chapter.
Under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), the bureau can challenge a verdict of the accountability court within 10 days of the judgment if NAB wants to pursue the corruption references.
The accountability court’s decision could have been challenged by Sept 29
It may be mentioned that filing an appeal against the orders of the accountability courts and high courts is a routine matter.
Currently, a number of appeals against the orders of the accountability courts are pending in the five high courts and the Supreme Court. NAB sources disclosed that over two dozen appeals against orders of the accountability courts of Rawalpindi and Islamabad were pending in the LHC Rawalpindi bench and Islamabad High Court (IHC).
It included NAB’s appeal against the orders passed in Modaraba scam, Ogra corruption reference, Tawana Pakistan Project initiated during the tenure of former president retired General Pervez Musharraf and so on.
On September 19, the Accountability Court of Rawalpindi dismissed an application filed by NAB on August 2011 which sought revival of corruption references against the Sharifs.
Earlier in the year, in May, the Accountability Court of Islamabad acquitted former president Asif Ali Zardari in the polo ground reference – this judgment too was not challenged in the high court.
NAB had filed the polo ground corruption reference in the accountability court in 2000, implicating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Mr Zardari along with two former CDA chairmen, Shafi Sehwani and Saeed Mehdi.
The former chairmen were alleged to have constructed a polo ground at the Prime Minister House during Ms Bhutto’s first term in office.
This case, along with others against Mr Zardari as well as the Sharifs, came to a halt with the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2007.
After the Supreme Court declared the NRO invalid on December 16, 2009, these cases were revived.
However, two years later in 2011, the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi bench restrained the accountability court from continuing the corruption references – Hudaibia Paper Mills and Raiwind Assets references – against the Sharif family.
As per the 11-volume report of NAB in the Hudaibia Paper Mills reference, the Sharif family allegedly deposited ill-gotten money in the accounts opened in other people’s names and used it to pay off loans of the “Sharif companies”.
According to the allegations against the Sharifs in the Raiwind Assets reference, the accused had acquired vast tracts of land on which a number of palatial houses and mansions were constructed with pecuniary resources which appeared to be grossly disproportionate to their known sources of income.
Since then the case plodded along without any resolution.
But a month later in 2011, the Sharifs went to the LHC with another petition on the same two cases.
This time around they asked that the two references be quashed; the court accepted their plea but since the references were pending before the accountability court therefore, the LHC referred the matter to this court.
And four months later, in the third week of September, the accountability court quashed the proceedings against the Sharifs.
Sources in NAB told Dawn that the bureau could have challenged the LHC order in the Supreme Court and that it could have appealed the September 19 order of the Accountability Court. However, it did neither.
According to those familiar with NAB’s procedures, the prosecutor who is supervising a particular reference is then tasked with writing a report to explain why it failed to prove the case. In this report, the prosecutor also recommends whether or not the order of the accountability court should be challenged.
The report, including the recommendation, is sent to the deputy prosecutor general (DPG) who forwards it to the additional prosecutor general and then to the prosecutor general. The prosecutor general in such matters has to make the decision as to whether the appeal would be filed or not.
However, this process, Dawn has learnt, was reversed in the cases of the Sharifs and Mr Zardari; in other words, it was not the prosecutor who recommended not to challenge the decision, but senior officials who ordered that the cases be dropped.
When contacted NAB’s spokesman Hafiz Mohammad Irfan said that the accountability court had rejected the bureau’s plea for the revival of corruption reference once the LHC ruled that the references be quashed.
He conceded that the bureau did not challenge the LHC verdict but added that he would get back to explain why the appeal was not filed. However, he did not respond till the filing of the report.
Published in Dawn, October 1st , 2014