ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan has approached the Supreme Court to challenge the recent amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), contending that the law has been promulgated to benefit influential accused persons and to legitimise corruption.

In a petition filed on Saturday, Mr Khan requested the apex court to declare the amendments unconstitutional and a breach of fundamental rights. The petition named the federation of Pakistan through its law and justice division secretary and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) through its chairman as respondents.

The NAB law amendment bill, along with the one on election reforms, was approved by the National Assembly and Senate last month, but President Arif Alvi returned the bill unsigned. Later on June 9, the government passed the law in a joint sitting of parliament.

In the petition, Imran Khan stated that the NAB amendments not only scrapped the cases against the prime minister, chief ministers, ministers and the president but also provided an opportunity to already convicted public office-holders to get their conviction undone.

He requested the apex court to adjudicate upon questions of “great public importance” with reference to the enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens under articles 9 (security of a person), 14 (inviolability of dignity of a man, etc.), 19A (right to information), 24 (protection of property rights) and 25 (equality of citizens) of the Constitution.

Most of the amendments brought into NAB were person-specific, he said: “As such, it is just and fair to protect the constitutional and fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan.”

“The NAB may be asked to provide details of all such cases which relate to the prominent and influential holders of public office, especially regarding cases pertaining to offences of owning assets (movable and immovable) without means,” he said.

Regarding the deletion of Section 14 of the NAO, which provided for presumptions of guilt and shifting the burden of proof on the accused person, the former premier said this was “inevitable to prevent the commission of a crime by holders of public office with impunity” and after the omission of the clause, “it becomes impossible for the prosecution to prove white-collar crime against the holders of public office”.

Mr Khan also highlighted that an amendment had changed the scope of offence “misuse of authority” and “is tantamount to denying accountability” as it does not recognise the commission of such offence in cases where the illegal benefit to a person is proved.

The petition said the omission of clause (g) of Section 21 of NAO, related to the collection of evidence from foreign jurisdiction, was person-specific. It also challenged the amendment in Section 23 that enabled the accused to dispose of the property in pending matters of NAB.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2022

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