CJP takes suo motu notice of 'perceived interference' in prosecution of cases against govt officials

Published May 18, 2022
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. — Photo via SC website/File
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. — Photo via SC website/File

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday took suo motu notice of "perceived interference" by "persons in authority" in investigation and prosecution of criminal matters against government officials.

According to a press release issued by the Supreme Court, the CJP took the notice on the recommendation of a fellow apex court judge about the "perceived interference in the independence of the prosecution branch in performance of its powers and duties for the investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in the government today."

The press release added that such interference could influence the prosecution of cases, result in tampering or disappearing of evidence in courts or in possession of prosecuting agencies and lead to transfers and postings of officers on key posts.

The press release said that such actions, along with "media reports" about changes in accountability laws, were likely to "undermine" the functioning of the country's criminal justice system.

"That tantamounts to violation of fundamental rights affecting the society as a whole and eroding [of] the confidence of the people in the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country," it added.

It said the CJP would head a five-member bench presiding over the hearing for the case tomorrow (Thursday) at 1pm.

The SC press release did not indicate which "pending criminal matters" it was referring to. However, the Federal Investigation Agency is currently pursuing a money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.

The two were set to be indicted but the matter has been delayed since February. Last week, the FIA's former director Mohammad Rizwan, who was probing the case, died of a heart attack.

Rizwan had taken a long leave just before the formation of the PMLN-led coalition government and was later transferred from the office of FIA Lahore director last month. His name was also placed on the no-fly list.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan recently alleged that CM Hamza had "threatened" Rizwan due to which he was under "immense pressure" and died as a result. Imran has also claimed that FIA officials were either being transferred or threatened since the new government came into power.

Last week, reports emerged that the FIA had withdrawn its case against Shehbaz and Hamza. The FIA subsequently issued a press release repudiating the reports, saying that the "case has not been withdrawn" and court proceedings were ongoing.

The watchdog appointed a new special prosecutor in the case on Friday.

It is also pertinent to mention here that key figures from within the allied parties of the new government have called for either complete dissolution of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or amendments to the corruption watchdog's laws.

Last month, PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called for the institution's dissolution and said it should be held accountable. Meanwhile, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, last week, said that changes in the NAB laws were necessary before going to the next general elections.

On Tuesday, the cabinet consented to amendments and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif constituted a committee to reform NAB’s “draconian law” to do away with political victimisation. The cabinet members were of the view that NAB’s “draconian law” had been used for political victimisation and to intimidate government officers and the business community.

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