ISLAMABAD: Senior PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi accused the government of blackmailing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman as well as the judiciary.

Talking to journalists before appearing in the accountability court of Islamabad in connection with the proceedings in LNG terminal case on Friday, Mr Abbasi termed NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal an ‘aggrieved’ person.

Mr Abbasi appointed Justice Iqbal as NAB chairman when he was prime minister.

He said the PTI government also blackmailed the deceased judge of accountability court Arshad Malik to convict three-time elected former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, adding that on the one hand, the government was blackmailing judges and, on the other, ministers were demanding bribe from private companies.

Ex-PM says judge Arshad Malik was pressured to convict Nawaz

Mr Abbasi said the nation had been waiting for the last six-and-a-half years for a just judgement in foreign funding case against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

“We will continue our protest until the verdict in the PTI’s foreign funding case is announced,” he declared.

The PML-N leader said the country could not be governed smoothly in such a state of affairs, adding that NAB was being used for victimisation of opposition members and such a vindictive approach was against the spirit of several verdicts of the superior judiciary.

Earlier, Mr Abbasi, along with his son Abdullah Khaqan and other accused, appeared before accountability court judge Azam Khan. The prosecution produced Energy Division assistant director Hassan Bhatti as a witness in the LNG terminal case against Mr Abbasi.

During the cross-examination, when Mr Abbasi’s counsel Barrister Zafarullah Khan asked the witness if he had sought a prior permission from the competent authority before testifying in the case, Mr Bhatti replied in the negative.

The witness, however, said he had submitted the relevant record to NAB with the permission of the federal secretary, adding that he did not submit any document to the court about the secretary’s authorisation.

Since other witnesses were also present during the proceedings, Barrister Khan objected to their presence in the courtroom and requested the court to get them moved to another room. Barrister Khan argued that this was a case of procedural lapses and not of corruption.

He referred to a recent judgement of the Islamabad High Court in the Nandipur reference and said that the IHC had drawn a fine line between corruption and procedural lapses. He said the high court had declared that procedural lapses could not be termed corruption or corrupt practice.

Earlier this week, the IHC quashed the Nandipur reference and held that any bona fide decision may be contrary to law or reflect departure from known precedents and thus technically these could not be termed the misuse of authority or corrupt practice.

The judgement said bureaucrats were humans and they could also err in taking decisions or actions, but such acts would not necessarily attract criminal liability against them. Creativity, flexible thinking, ability to take initiatives and decisions are essential attributes of a bureaucrat in order to perform functions and duties, it said.

Barrister Khan also reminded the judge of an application seeking production of Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid as a witness in the reference.

Judge Azam Khan said that after the cross-examination of the witness, the court would take a decision about production of the interior minister as a witness.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2021

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