ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday expressed displeasure over a press release of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) wherein an accused had been labelled as a criminal.
An IHC division bench, comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, resumed the hearing of a petition seeking pre-arrest bail for former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Akram Khan Durrani in an illegal appointment case.
The court wondered that with the promulgation of a new NAB ordinance that protected the business community and government servants, how this law would deal with politicians.
The court observed that the issuance of a press release on under-investigation matters was itself misconduct since its wording tried to establish guilt of an accused at the preliminary stage of inquiry.
When the court asked the investigation officer if Mr Durrani was cooperating with NAB, he said the politician responded to the call-up notices and appeared on each and every date. He investigation officer, however, said that Mr Durrani was not answering the questions asked.
Sharjeel Inam’s pre-arrest bail extended till 7th
The court directed the investigation officer to produce the questionnaire that had been forwarded to Mr Durrani and asked him to apprise the court of the questions yet to be answered.
When the bench asked about the justification for keeping the politician in custody, NAB deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that the NAB chairman had issued arrest warrants for Mr Durrani in the illegal appointment case and his custody was required for interrogation.
Justice Minallah asked NAB to satisfy the court on the discretion of the NAB chairman for issuing arrest warrants.
The bench pointed out that while Mr Durrani might have asked the relevant authorities for appointment of certain candidates, those who were responsible for recruitment had been protected through the ordinance and the politician had to face trial.
“NAB needs to satisfy this court if two persons commit some crime with connivance of each other, how one could be pardoned while other has to face trial,” asked the court.
Justice Minallah remarked that NAB had never accused Mr Durrani of getting illegal benefit from making the appointments; hence, under the recent amendments, he could not be tried under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
NAB was investigating the allegation of misuse of authority by Mr Durrani and the court desired a thorough probe into the matter.
“If this is a case of corruption, then the accused may get 14-year sentence if found guilty. The court wants a strong NAB with fair prosecution,” the judge said.
The counsel for Mr Durrani, Advocate Kamran Murtaza, argued before the court that NAB had not accused his client of getting pecuniary benefit from the appointments. Under the recent amendments to NAO through the presidential ordinance, the bureau lacked the jurisdiction to probe Mr Durrani, he added.
Subsequently, the court extended the pre-arrest interim bail of Mr Durrani till Jan 15 and adjourned the haring.
Meanwhile, the IHC also extended the pre-arrest interim bail of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Sharjeel Inam Memon till Jan 7 in the Roshan Sindh Programme case.
When the court resumed hearing of the case, Mr Memon’s counsel Advocate Shah Khawar raised the objection that NAB had not filed a written reply in this matter.
NAB additional prosecutor general Jahanzeb Khan Bharwana told the court that instead of submitting a written reply, the bureau intended to advance arguments in this matter.
Advocate Khawar, however, argued that his client should know what the specific allegations had been levelled against him.
Subsequently, the court extended the pre-interim arrest bail of Mr Memon till Jan 7 and adjourned the hearing.
Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2020