ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the petitioner in a case pertaining to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) to provide evidence with written arguments to convince the bench on the maintainability of his petition.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, wondered if a case could be reopened on a petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution when the accused had already been acquitted of all money laundering charges by courts.
The bench had taken up the petition of Advocate Feroz Shah Gilani, the president of Lawyers’ Foundation for Justice, seeking recovery of huge amounts of public money wasted against the backdrop of the NRO in 2007 allegedly by former presidents Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari and former attorney general Malik Mohammad Qayyum.
Bench questions reopening of case under Article 184(3) after courts acquitted accused of money laundering charges
Since the matter was of a very serious nature, the petitioner would have to convince the court by providing evidence against the accused, Justice Ahsan observed.
The petitioner said he had not been ‘provided’ any evidence, but recalled that the apex court in the NRO judgement had held that the $60 million stashed in the Swiss banks belonged to the people of Pakistan and, therefore, efforts should be made to bring the money back.
The court observed that the petitioner had to furnish solid evidence to convince the court to proceed with the matter. Justice Ahsan observed that no one would be subjected to injustice and the case would be decided in accordance with the law and the Constitution.
Senior counsel Farooq H. Naek, representing Asif Zardari, regretted that the same old allegations were being levelled against his client time and again, though he had already been acquitted of all charges after he had spent eight years in jail.
The counsel argued that Mr Zardari was neither the true beneficiary of the alleged $60m stashed in the Swiss banks nor was it ever maintained in his name.
Earlier through a written submission, the ex-president had contended that no case of causing loss to the public exchequer or looting and plundering of the national wealth had ever been proved against him in Pakistan or abroad. He said cases against him were reopened when NRO was set aside by the Supreme Court and that he was tried de-novo but again it resulted in his acquittal on merit. Mr Zardari further stated that eight reopened cases were prosecuted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which were later concluded on merit and he was acquitted in all the pending cases.
About the $60m money laundering case in the Swiss courts, he explained that the Attorney General of Geneva had finished the case on merit as well. He said Pakistan’s law ministry on the SC directive had written a letter to the Geneva’s AG for reopening of the case against him but it was not reopened.
The SC bench questioned: “Can a case be reopened on Article 184(3) petition when already the accused stand acquitted of all money laundering charges by the courts?”
It asked the federal government as well as NAB to re-examine the Swiss cases against the backdrop of NRO and furnish respective replies afresh. The court observed that it would determine whether to pursue the matter or not after the receipt of the replies as well as the written arguments of the petitioner coupled with evidence.
Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which is about original jurisdiction of Supreme Court, says: “Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 199, the Supreme Court shall, if it considers that a question of public importance with reference to the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II is involved have the power to make an order of the nature mentioned in the said Article.”
Meanwhile, on the court directives, all details of the assets and properties furnished by retired Gen Musharraf, Mr Zardari and Mr Qayyum would remain under the sealed envelopes pending decision in the case.
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2018