ISLAMABAD: In light of a Supreme Court ruling which struck down amendments made to the accountability law by the Pakistan Democratic Move­­ment (PDM) government, the National Accountability Bureau has approached accountability courts, asking them to reopen cases involving amounts less than Rs500 million.

In an amendment, the government had inserted a minimum pecuniary jurisdiction of Rs500 million and the NAB could not take cognisance of the offence of corruption and corrupt practices involving less than Rs500m.

Following the removal of this bar, the accountability watchdog also wrote to the Federal Investi­gation Agency, anti-corruption departments in all provinces, banking courts, and the police to return all cases to the watchdog which were referred to these departments following the new amendments that barred the NAB from taking up cases involving less than Rs500 million.

The top court virtually reopened about 1,800 closed cases; however, the cases already settled or disposed of will not be opened by the accountability watchdog.

A source in the NAB told Dawn that the decision to approach all courts and departments was made in a recent meeting presided over by the NAB chairman. In light of decisions made at the meeting, accoun­tability courts have been approached for reopening the cases.

“The NAB headquarters has submitted an application before the registrar [of] accountability court Islamabad for [the] reopening of closed cases,” the source said, adding that all regional headquarters of the accountability watchdog have also approached regional accountability courts for the purpose.

According to the NAB source, the accountability courts had returned white-collar crime cases involving less than Rs500 million to the watchdog after the new amendments.

“Now NAB has requested accountability courts to take up all these cases being sent again by the bureau to the courts,” the source added. “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 watchdog and the courts, the source said it has been categorically decided that they will not be reopened for any investigation and action.

The Supreme Court’s decision has reopened cases of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Shehbaz Sharif, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Shaukat Aziz.

Other bigwigs whose cases have been reopened are former president Asif Ali Zardari, former federal ministers Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Kh Asif, Rana Sanaullah, ex-chief minister Punjab Hamza Shehbaz, Faryal Talpur, Syed Murad Ali Shah, Javed Latif, Akrum Durrani, Saleem Mandviwalla and others. Shaukat Tarin, Pervez Khattak, Amir Mehmood Kiani, and Khusro Bakhtiar, who were part of the PTI government, may also face NAB proceedings.

Legal experts said the decision of the apex court could be challenged or reviewed by a bigger bench but the challengers will have to present solid reasons for review. However, the incumbent interim government seemed to be in no mood to challenge the decision of the Supreme Court.

Last week, caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi said the interim government was waiting for the court to issue a detailed judgement on a case related to the amendments in NAB laws.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2023

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