ISLAMABAD: As a division bench of the Islamabad High Court resumed hearing of an appeal filed by federal minister Ahsan Iqbal, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday affirmed to the allegations against him and argued that the Narowal Sports City (NSC) reference was different from the Nandipur reference quashed by the IHC.
Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi, the counsel for Mr Iqbal, earlier apprised the IHC that the accountability court dismissed his client’s acquittal plea despite admitting that it was a case of misuse of authority and the amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) redefined the offence making it conditional with financial gains.
According to the prosecution, the project of Narowal Sports City, formerly known as Sports Stadium Narowal, was initially conceived in 1999 on Mr Iqbal’s directives “without any feasibility study”.
Drawing Mr Bharwana’s attention towards the Nandipur reference in which PTI leader Babar Awan, former law secretary Masood Chishti and others were acquitted, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the court defined in detail the concept of misuse of authority and NAB should keep in mind while responding to the acquittal plea of Mr Iqbal.
When the additional prosecutor general of NAB insisted that the NSC reference was different from the Nandipur case because millions of rupees had been released for the project, Justice Minallah remarked that since NAB had stopped the project causing loss of public funds, it also contributed to the crime.
Mr Bharwana argued that amendments to the NAO did not absolve the accused of charges for causing loss to the public exchequer.
Justice Minallah reminded him that the decision in the Nandipur reference was announced before the said amendments and the presidential ordinance affirmed the IHC decision. He also inquired as to why NAB pardoned the federal secretary who was the principal accounting officer of the ministry in this case since he was solely responsible for protecting the public funds and was involved in decision-making, obtaining approvals and executing the project.
Justice Minallah directed the bureau to satisfy the court on the questions raised during the proceedings and adjourned the hearing till June 8.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2022