Ordinance challenged in high court over NAB law changes

Updated February 15, 2020

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The petitioners sought the court’s orders to declare ‘any act done on the strength of the impugned ordinance as illegal, void and in conflict with different provisions of the Constitution’. — APP/FIle
The petitioners sought the court’s orders to declare ‘any act done on the strength of the impugned ordinance as illegal, void and in conflict with different provisions of the Constitution’. — APP/FIle

PESHAWAR: Challenging a recent ordinance that curtailed several powers of the National Accountability Bureau, around 200 people have formally requested the Peshawar High Court to declare the presidential move unconstitutional and against the spirit of the accountability law.

The petitioners, mostly residents of Nowshera district, sought the court’s orders to declare ‘any act done on the strength of the impugned ordinance, which was promulgated by the president of Pakistan on Dec 28, as illegal, void and in conflict with different provisions of the Constitution’.

They prayed the court to direct the NAB to proceed with the inquiries/ investigations and trials under the original National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

The petitioners feared that 90 per cent of the NAB cases would automatically come to an end and loss to public exchequer would occur in financial matters, too.

They claimed that the ordinance had facilitated money launderers.

Petitioners fear 90pc graft cases will cease to exist

The petitioners said the offence of the misuse of authority was now almost abolished in the NAO by adding the words ‘materially benefitted’ with it.

They said the offences of illegal schemes and destructive projects designing authorities are also excluded from the column of offences and giving opinion, reports etc. by the authority through which if loss occur to public exchequer could no longer be an offence.

The petitioners cited several petitions decided by the high court related to misuse of powers in appointments in different government bodies.

In those petitions, the court had ordered the NAB to conduct inquiries.

They claimed that amendments to the NAO 1999 through the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, had rendered many of the high court judgments and pending petitions infructuous.

The petitioners said several inquiries and investigations were stopped and trials vitiated proving that the impugned ordinance is against the basic anti-corruption and anti-corrupt practices law.

The respondents in the petition are the president and prime minister through their respective principal secretaries, NAB chairman and its director general, attorney general for Pakistan, federal secretaries of law and interior divisions, and provincial law secretary and advocate general.

The petitioners said on the analogy of ‘misuse of authority’ dozens of cases were directed by the high court to investigate and prosecute, but through the instant amendments the way of the implementation of judgment is blocked and the said judgments are thus flouted.

They said amendment to Section 9(a) (ix) (x) and (xi) of the NAO was made wherein for sake of misuse of authority, financial gain of transaction is made part and parcel otherwise the misuse of authority would be no offence under the law.

The petitioners claimed that a reference had already been pending before the accountability court in Peshawar against ex-tehsil nazim Nowshera, Ahad Khattak, who is the nephew of defence minister Pervez Khattak, and on the strength of the said ordinance the accused has now filed an application under Section 265-K of Code of Criminal Procedure seeking his acquittal before conclusion of his trial.

They contended that after those amendments were made, very few cases would be left with the NAB and therefore, the body would be only a burden on national exchequer.

They claimed that the ordinance was basically made for the protection of all those political and bureaucratic entities that are on same footing with the government.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020