Chaudhrys challenge NAB chief’s power to reopen 20-year-old inquiries

Published May 7, 2020
Move termed an attempt to ‘contain’ PML-Q leaders’ role in political arena. — APP/File
Move termed an attempt to ‘contain’ PML-Q leaders’ role in political arena. — APP/File

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, the speaker of the Punjab Assembly, approached the Lahore High Court on Wednesday, challenging three 20-year-old inquiries against them by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“In year 2000, then chairman of the respondent bureau proceeded to authorise investigation against the petitioners on the allegations of misuse of authority, assets beyond means and wilful default under National Accountability Ordinance 1999,” the PML-Q leaders, who are also cousins, said in their three identical petitions filed through their lawyer Amjad Pervez.

The petitioners, whose party is a major ally of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, argued that the establishment of NAB, its credibility and partiality and its “use for political engineering” had been a matter of heated debate not only by political parties but also by human rights organisations and intelligentsia, both at national and international level.

Move termed an attempt to ‘contain’ PML-Q leaders’ role in political arena

They said that the superior courts of the country had also taken notice of the conduct of the bureau and the manner in which its officials exercised their authority in a number of cases.

The petitioners said that the three investigations were recommended for closure by the investigating officers and the regional board of NAB in 2017 and 2018 when their arch rivals were in power.

However, they said, the NAB chairman approved in 2019 bifurcation of the investigations against them about allegations of assets beyond means 19 years after the investigations were authorised (in 2000).

They argued that the so-called order for the bifurcation of the investigations after a lapse of about 20 years was for a purpose other than bona-fide and it was prompted by the mala fide intention to “contain and cage” their (petitioners’) and their party’s role in the political arena.

The Chaudhrys claimed that not a single piece of evidence or material was available before the then chairman of NAB to form an opinion in terms of section 18(c) of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 to pass an order for authorisation of the investigations.

They also questioned the jurisdiction of NAB to invoke provisions the ordinance and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 simultaneously. They argued that the bureau had no power to hold an inquiry into allegations of money laundering under the NAO 1999.

The petitioners argued that the entire process from commencing and conducting the investigations was in violation of mandatory provisions of the ordinance.

Therefore, they pleaded, all actions taken by NAB were illegal, without lawful authority and void ab initio.

They requested the court to set aside the authorisation of the inquiries and the order for their bifurcation passed by the NAB chairman for being unlawful.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2020

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