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A prosecutor general (PG) for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has yet to be appointed because President Mamnoon Hussain rejected the five nominees put forward by the prime minister, a three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench was told on Monday.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, has been hearing a suo motu case on non-functioning tribunals and special courts across Pakistan. On January 11, the CJP had ordered that all vacant positions for judges be filled within a week's time.

In today's hearing, however, law secretary Karamatullah Niazi submitted a file containing the president's rejection to explain the delay in implementation of the SC's order.

Expressing surprise over the development, the SC bench noted that the president is bound to take the PM's advice. According to Article 48, Section 1(a) of the Constitution, the president is bound to approve any documents sent by the prime minister or federal cabinet. Though the president can send files forwarded by the PM office back for reconsideration, he cannot reject them.

"How can the president reject the names recommended by the prime minister?" Justice Nisar asked.

Furthermore, the court was told that the president had, in turn, sent back recommendations of his own. The president had recommended senior lawyers Waqar Hasan Mir, Chaudhry Mohammad Ramzan and Najeeb Faisal Chaudhry, all three of whom were rejected by NAB Chairman Javed Chaudhry, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Rana Waqar told the apex court.

The position of the NAB prosecutor general (PG) fell vacant on November 23, 2017, after former PG Waqar Qadeer Dar left office after completing his tenure.

In November, NAB had sent the law ministry the names of Nasir Saeed Sheikh, Fasihul Mulk, Syed Asghar Haider, Mudassar Khalid Abbasi and Shah Khawar as potential candidates for the position of PG. Sheikh, Mulk, Haider and Abbasi are retired judges, while Khawar is a former attorney general.

However, after receiving no response from the ministry, NAB in December 2017 had appointed Khawar as a special prosecutor till a full-time PG was appointed.

Rana said that earlier this month, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf had assured a separate two-member SC bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed that a new PG for NAB would be appointed within a week of Mehmood Bashir Virk taking oath as the new law minister.

The court demanded an explanation for the president's rejection and adjourned the hearing until January 24.