ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday challenged the acquittal of former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, incumbent Speaker of National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and others in the reference related to appointment of Tauqeer Sadiq as chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra).

An accountability court last month acquitted Mr Gillani, Mr Ashraf, former federal secretaries Sikander Hayat Maken and Shoukat Hayat Durrani, former chairman of Ogra Tauqeer Sadiq and former managing director of a power distribution company Javaid Nazir in the said reference.

The NAB accused Mr Maken, a member of the selection committee, of failing to check the credentials of Mr Sadiq for the post of Ogra chairman. Mr Durrani and Mr Nazir, two other members of the selection committee, were accused of recommending Mr Sadiq for the post.

Mr Ashraf was nominated as accused in the reference since he was the minister for water and power at the time of Mr Sadiq’s appointment, while ex-PM Gillani had been accused of giving final approval to the appointment.

Appeal filed in IHC says trial court did not take into account provisions of NAO

NAB in its reference had accused Mr Sadiq of causing losses worth billions of rupees to national exchequer, for which he was facing another reference.

The accountability court acquitted the accused persons for lack of jurisdiction as they were seeking relief under the amendment in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), the law that governs NAB.

In the appeal filed before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), NAB contended that the accountability court erroneously surrendered the jurisdiction without dilating the same in its true perspective.

The appeal said that the trial court did not take into account the provisions of NAO as these never empowered the accountability court to abate the criminal proceeding initiated under the law.

It said the reference was filed much earlier to the promulgation of the presidential ordinance that “has no retrospective effect”.

The appeal stated that under the garb of Section 265-K of the criminal procedure code, the prosecution has been stifled practically when the prosecution has equal right of fair trial under Article 10-A of the Constitution.

Before the trial court, Advocate Amjad Iqbal Qureshi, the counsel of the ex-premiers, as well as lawyers of other accused persons, filed applications seeking their acquittal under Section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government promulgated a presidential ordinance restricting NAB’s jurisdiction.

The accountability judge, Mohammad Bashir, in the judgement issued on March 17 observed that the amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) were applicable to this reference as “there is no allegation of receiving monetary benefit or material gain in process of appointment of chairman Ogra in question. Similarly, there is no iota of evidence alluding receiving of any monetary benefit or material gain in the said process”.

“When the jurisdiction of this court ousted in respect of misuse of authority as alleged in the case i.e. in absence of sufficient evidence to show that the holders of public office/accused-petitioners had received or gained any monetary or other material benefit from the decision taken, advice report, or opinion rendered or given by them in appointment of the chairman Ogra.”

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2022

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