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LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali has constituted a full bench to decide a petition challenging the existence of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 and conviction of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members under a “dead law”.

Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza will head the three-judge full bench which has Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi and Justice Mujahid Mustaqeem Ahmad as its other members. The date of hearing of the petition will be fixed later.

A single bench comprising Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi, last month, had observed that legal points raised in the petition were important in nature and required to be heard by a larger bench. The judge had referred the matter to the chief justice for the constitution of a larger bench.

Senior lawyer A.K. Dogar filed the petition assailing the conviction of the Sharifs, besides challenging the existence of the NAO.

Petitioner Dogar has challenged the existence of National Accountability Ordinance

The lawyer pleaded that ousted premier Nawaz Sharif and others had been convicted by a court which had no jurisdiction because the law under which it (court) had been created was a dead law.

He urged the LHC to suspend the operation of the accountability court’s judgement for being one given by a court that had been established under a non-existent law.

Challenging the validity of the NAO, Mr Dogar argued that it had been promulgated by military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf under Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) No 1 of 1999 as well as Order No 9 of 1999.

He said that order No 9 was promulgated only to amend PCO No 1 of 1999 by inserting Section 5A (1) into it to the effect that limitation of 120 days prescribed under Article 89 of the Constitution to any ordinance by the president would not be applicable to the laws made under PCO No 1 of 1999.

However, he said that under Article 270-AA of the Constitution through the 18th Amendment, the PCO No 1 of 1999 was declared without lawful authority and of no legal effect. He argued that once the PCO No 1 was declared without lawful authority and of no legal effect, the amendments made to it under order No 9 of 1999 would also stand lapsed and, therefore, the limitation period of 120 days prescribed under Article 89 would be applicable to the NAO.

Advocate Dogar asked the court to declare that after the 18th Amendment and insertion of Article 270-AA into the Constitution, the NAO had ceased to be the law and become non-existent and a dead letter.

He stated that thousands of people had been suffering from the agony of proceedings under a law which was constitutionally non-existent. Therefore, he said, all these proceedings should also be declared unlawful.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2018