PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed the National Accountability Bureau and federal government to file within a week comments about a petition challenging the powers of the NAB chairman to order the arrest of corruption suspects and an application about his ‘controversial’ conversation with a woman.
A bench consisting of Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Mussarat Hilali directed senior NAB prosecutor Azeem Dad and additional deputy prosecutor general Ali Jan to file the comments within the stipulated time for the holding of hearing.
Azeem Dad said the petition filed by freelance journalist Shahid Orakzai was not maintainable and therefore, it should be dismissed.
Seeks comments of bureau on petition against his powers to order arrests
He said the Supreme Court had already decided in the Asfandyar Wali Khan case the matter about the NAB chairman’s powers about orders for the arrest of a suspect.
The bench turned down his plea observing that it could hear the petition as the NAB had its regional office in Peshawar.
The petitioner had filed the main petition challenging Section 24 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, last month, saying the exercise of powers under that section was whimsical and discriminatory.
He has requested the court to declare different sub-sections of Section 24 in conflict with the constitution and to direct the accountability courts in the province to stop remand of accused under that section of the NAO.
Following the surfacing of video and audio clips allegedly carrying conversation of the chairman with a woman suspect, the petitioner filed an application in the main petition for ‘protection of women’ requesting the court that till final disposal of this writ petition Section 24 might be suspended and the court might stop any action under the ordinance including inquiry, investigation and trial of any feminine citizen.
About the main petition, the petitioner said he had primarily questioned the vires of Section 24 pertaining to power of arrest of the accused at any stage of inquiry or investigation.
He said Article 25 of the Constitution guaranteed equality before the law for all citizens but prejudice and favoritism were the two sides of the NAO.
The petitioner said during the last 20 years, no high court in Pakistan bothered to supervise and control the routine functioning of the accountability courts as required under Article 203 of the Constitution.
He said the high court should take notice of a former NAB officer ending his life on Mar 15, 2019, due to section 24 of the NAO.
About the application, the petitioner contended that neither the NAB chairman nor other officers mentioned in Section 24 of NAO could secretly pressure an accused for sexual exploitation.
He said the ordinance was not promulgated for bodily pleasure nor was it meant for sexual plea bargain.
He said the audio-visual evidence broadcast by a TV channel needed to be examined by the court primarily to give a ruling whether the substance of the talk was seductive or coercive in nature.
Mr Orakzai said the court should take note that the Constitution repeatedly called for extra protection and care to women but on the contrary, the NAO made no mention of that.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019