ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Law and Justice has conceded that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman has been working without any fresh notification since October 2021 when his term expired but stated there is no strict compulsion for it, as he can continue to work under the law till his replacement.

The ministry came up with the explanation in response to a petition filed by Faheem Qureshi, an additional director of the bureau, who challenged the powers of NAB chairman Javed Iqbal in December last year after he constituted a selection board for the promotion of senior officers of NAB in BS-20 and BS-21.

“There was no requirement in strict sense for the issuance of any separate notification regarding the appointment or otherwise of the incumbent chairman of NAB since under the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance 2021 until the assumption of charge by a newly appointed chairman, the outgoing chairman would continue to act, exercise authority and perform function as chairman,” stated the law ministry in its reply explaining that no separate notification was mandated under the ordinance for continuing in office of chairman.

Court allows bureau to continue inquiry into charges against petitioner, but bars adverse action till next hearing

Mr Qureshi, in his petition, argued that since Mr Iqbal’s extension of service through the ‘temporary legislation’ was not notified by the law ministry, he could neither hold the office nor take any major decisions.

While the matter was pending before the Islamabad High Court, the petitioner complained that the bureau administration had started victimising him for filing the plea against the chairman and Sindh chapter director general of NAB.

When Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri of the IHC took up the petition, the counsel for the petitioner, Kashif Ali Malik, said the bureau initiated an inquiry against him for retrieving land from illegal occupants ‘in violation of a Supreme Court order’. According to Advocate Malik, the SC did not issue any restraining order for the petitioner, as a matter of fact, when the apex court took up this case, the state land had already been retrieved by the Sindh government.

The counsel claimed, “The inquiry has been initiated in order to harass, blackmail and pressurise the applicant / petitioner to withdraw the instant writ petition, the impugned inquiry is unlawful and is liable to be set aside.”

Justice Jahangiri allowed the bureau to continue with the inquiry proceedings, with the directive that “no adverse action be taken against the applicant / petitioner till the next date of hearing”.

Further hearing in this matter has been adjourned for a fortnight.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2022

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