ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court decision to strike down controversial amendments to accountability laws has re-empowered the Natio­nal Accountability Bureau (NAB) to lay its hands on politicians and bigwigs involved in white-collar crime, involving less than Rs500 million, virtually reopening about 1,800 closed cases.

It is believed that the apex court’s decision has bestowed powers on the anti-graft watchdog that had become toothless due to the amendments, though sources in the bureau said the cases that had already been closed down by NAB or disposed of by courts would not be reopened.

On the other hand, NAB will not be able to take action in the hundreds of cases till the two key positions of deputy chairman and prosecutor general in the bureau are filled.

Apparently, the Supreme Court’s decision will result in the reopening of cases against former prime ministers — Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif, Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Shaukat Aziz — besides former president Asif Ali Zardari.

NAB still assessing number of cases; estimates indicate up to 1,800 matters could be rejuvenated

Other bigwigs whose cases have been reopened are former ministers Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Khawaja Asif, Rana Sanaullah, Javed Latif, Akram Durrani, Saleem Mandviwalla, Shaukat Tarin, Pervez Khattak, Amir Mehmood Kiani, Khusro Bakhtiar and Faryal Talpur as well as former chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh Hamza Shehbaz and Syed Murad Ali Shah.

Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari

 Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif

It is also expected that the amendments in National Accountability Ordinance 1999 can be reinforced again if the Supreme Court, under the command of new Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa while taking up a case of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 on Monday, declares null and void all cases decided by a three-member bench headed by outgoing CJ Umar Ata Bandial in the last few months.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawyer Shoaib Shaheen described the court order as “withdrawal of NRO-II” that gave concessions to many leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

An inside source in NAB told Dawn that the apex court’s decision has breathed new life into NAB and work has been started to assess the number of cases to be reopened and referred back to courts.

 Pervez Khattak
Pervez Khattak

“We are assessing the exact number of reopened cases, but roughly they are about 1,600 to 1,800,” the source said.

Asked about the cases already settled by the anti-graft watchdog and the courts, the source said it has been categorically decided that they would not be reopened for any investigation and action.

The source said all reope­ned cases would again be presented in the NAB’s executive board to get its nod.

How­ever, since the NAB board is incomplete at present becau­­se of the resignations of its deputy cha­i­rman and prosecutor gen­eral, “NAB has to fill these vacant posts to decide its future line of action on re­­opened cases”, the source said.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2023

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