ISLAMABAD: Justice Ijazul Ahsan has been appointed the Supreme Court’s ‘monitoring judge’ for the proceedings of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and accountability courts in cases involving disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif, members of his family and former finance minister Ishaq Dar in the light of the Panama Papers case investigations.

However, during the absence of Justice Ahsan, who is currently abroad, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who headed the three-judge implementation bench in the case, will supervise the work.

According to a notification issued by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the chief justice appointed Justice Ahsan to supervise and monitor the implementation of the July 28 “judgement in letter and spirit and oversee the proceedings conducted by NAB and the accountability court”. The appointment was made in pursuance of the verdict in the Panama Papers case.

“As Justice Ijazul Ahsan, monitoring judge, is currently abroad, therefore, till his return, the chief justice has been pleased to order that Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan shall act on his behalf,” the notification added.

In the light of the verdict, NAB, which once appeared reluctant to proceed against the Sharif family, decided on July 31 to file references against the former prime minister, his children, son-in-law retired Capt Mohammed Safdar and Mr Dar.

However, it is unclear whether NAB will further investigate the matters before filing the references or rely entirely on the report of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the court.

The apex court, during the Panama Papers case hearings, had expressed serious reservations on NAB’s performance over not pursuing cases against the Sharif family.

The judgement of a five-judge bench had said that all material collected by the JIT tasked with investigating the family’s financial dealings would be sent to an accountability court within six weeks.

“The honourable chief justice of Pakistan is requested to nominate an honourable judge of this court to supervise and monitor implementation of this judgement in letter and spirit and oversee the proceedings conducted by NAB and the accountability court in the above-mentioned matters,” it said.

The announcement of the appointment of the monitoring judge was sent to the bureau’s headquarters; Islamabad NAB courts 1 and 2; the prosecutors general, chief secretaries and high court registrars of the four provinces; Federal Investigation Agency; ministries of law and justice and interior; the establishment division; etc.

In October last year, the Supreme Court formed a larger bench to hear petitions of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and others for an investigation into the Panama Papers scandal. It was headed by former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

After the retirement of Justice Jamali, Justice Saqib Nisar became the 25th Chief Justice of Pakistan and formed the five-judge larger bench to hear the case. The bench comprised Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal, Justice Gulzar Ahmad, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. Justice Asif Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed gave a decision against Mr Sharif, while the remaining three judges asked for further investigations and the JIT was formed on May 2, which completed its report in 60 days.

In the light of the JIT report, the five-judge bench headed by Justice Khosa disqualified Mr Sharif for holding any public office.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2017