ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court seeking removal of his name from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report in the Rs35 billion fake accounts case.

The Sindh government also moved a separate review petition before the apex court with a request to consider its last month direction that the entire JIT record be furnished to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at Karachi and further inquiry, if any and filing of the references against the accused, be conducted at Karachi.

In its Jan 7 order, the SC had directed the authorities concerned to remove the names of the PPP chairperson and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah from both the Exit Control List (ECL) and the JIT report. However, the detailed order released on Jan 17 contained no reference to the earlier direction about the removal of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s name from the JIT report.

Separate review petitions filed by PPP chairperson, Sindh govt in fake accounts case; NAB submits progress report

Also, the apex court had given two months to the NAB to complete its investigation with a direction to submit a progress report after every 15 days. In line with the court order, NAB furnished its progress report on Friday.

In the review petition filed through his counsel Khalid Jawed Khan, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he had serious reservations over the JIT probe and court proceedings. The petitioner highlighted that he had never received any summons or notice from the SC during the course of its hearing in the fake account case. He pleaded before the court to constitute a larger bench as he wanted to raise different constitutional and legal objections.

According to the petition, the applicant was not involved in commissioning of any offence related to fake bank accounts case. Mr Bhutto-Zardari was subjected to adverse and misconceived observations in the JIT report and his name was placed on the ECL by the federal government, the petition argued.

The review petition highlighted that it was a well-settled and centuries-old principle of law as enshrined in Articles 4 and 13 of the constitution that no one should be subjected to any criminal probe, inquiry, investigation or proceedings unless there exists sufficient material connecting him to the commission of a cognisable offence. But in the present case, the petition regretted, this principle was reversed.

The applicant was subjected to probe first with the objective of finding out whether there was sufficient material available to connect him to any cognisable offence, the petition added.

It also pointed out that Mr Bhutto-Zardari had never held any public office before the 2018 general elections, yet he was subjected to a highly pervasive, damaging and widely publicised criminal probe, inquiry and investigation by NAB in order to discover or extract some material that may possibly link him to a cognisable offence.

The review petition stated that no one could claim general immunity against any lawful probe or inquiry etc if conducted in good faith by any independent agency or body, but in the present case, consequent upon the direction of the highest court of the country, with no possibility to any appeal to any higher legal forum, NAB was mandated to subject the applicant to criminal investigation only to discover something that may be considered incriminating and amounting to a cognizable offence by the bureau.

Needless to add that authorization accorded by the Supreme Court to NAB to probe and investigate would not take much and long to be construed as direction to prosecute the applicant irrespective of the merits and non-culpability of the applicant, the petition regretted.

The petition reiterated that Mr Bhutto-Zardari never held any public office and that nothing incriminating was found against him by the exhaustive JIT probe.

It also highlighted that the suo motu powers conferred upon the SC under Article 184(3) of the Constitution were always exercised sparingly and in a manner that fundamental rights of individuals including those guaranteed under Article 10A and 25 of the Constitution were fully given effect to and not diluted or nullified.

The federal government, the JIT and NAB did not adhere to the January 7 directions given by the SC bench headed by then chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar for deleting Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s name for which they could be questioned and penalised by the Supreme Court, the petition observed. However, it said, the detailed order issued on January 17 contained no reference to it.

In any civilized society aspiring to be governed by rule of law, it would be completely inconceivable and indeed most destructive and subversive of all norms of civility and concept of justice that the directions given by the then chief justice of the country conducted in public glare by the highest court were completely ignored and not given effect to by any authority, body or the government, the petition regretted.

It is submitted with profound respect, trepidation and humility that the detailed order, though in the form of judgement effecting rights and obligations of individual parties including the applicant, is neither based on consideration of jurisdictional issues and application of relevant and applicable provisions of law nor based on any detailed reasoning which has otherwise been the hallmark of all judgments, decisions and orders of the Supreme Court, the petition added.

Meanwhile, NAB furnished before the SC its progress report, which was prepared by its Rawalpindi office director general Irfan Mangi, on the investigation in the case. According to report, the bureau had required records from different departments.

In its review petition, the Sindh government requested the apex court to consider its January 7 direction that the entire JIT record be provided to the NAB’s Karachi office. It pleaded that the apex court had directed the relevant authorities that further inquiry, if any, and filing of the references against the accused be conducted at Karachi and also to conclude the investigation in the fake accounts case within two months.

Earlier on Jan 28, former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur had filed a review petition questioning the referring of the JIT report to NAB for filing of references against them to be tried in Islamabad instead of Karachi.

Likewise, other accused in the case Anver Majid and Abdul Ghani Majid of the Omni Group of Companies had also moved review petition against referring of the JIT report to NAB for further investigations.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2019