PESHAWAR: The National Accountability Bureau, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on Thursday returned 134 references of alleged corruption to accountability courts here in accordance with a recent judgement of the Supreme Court.
The accountability courts in Peshawar had returned these references to the anti-graft watchdog in the wake of drastic changes to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, last year.
In Peshawar, six of the eight accountability courts set up for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are functional. The rest are not functional due to non-appointment of presiding officers.
After the return of these references last year, the accountability courts were left with only a few cases for trial.
Says move comes after SC verdict on anti-graft laws
An official informed Dawn that the NAB KP had also sent letters to the accountability courts along with references saying the Supreme Court had decided a constitutional petition on Sept 15 declaring certain provisions of the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2022, and National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act, 2022, ultra-vires, while certain provisions were declared in accordance with the Constitution depending upon the classification of the accused.
In those letters, the bureau has referred a paragraph of the apex court’s judgement that declared that all inquiries, investigations and references, which had been disposed of on the basis of the struck down sections were restored to their positions prior to the enactments of the 2022 amendments and should be deemed to be pending before the relevant forums.
The Supreme Court had ordered the NAB or all others concerned to return records of all such matters to the relevant forums within seven days for proceedings in accordance with the law from the same stage they’re disposed of, closed or returned.
Most of these references were filed against government officials and citizens. A few of them pertained to politicians.
One of these references is against Pakistan Peoples Party leader and former federal minister Dr Arbab Alamgir and his wife, Asma Alamgir, who were indicted by the court in 2019 for possessing assets to the tune of Rs332 million allegedly disproportionate to the known sources of theirincome.
The NAB, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, had filed joint reference against the couple alleging that they had accumulated Rs332 million moveable and immovable assets in their names as well as those of their dependents and benamidars.
However, the couple claimed innocence and insisted that all their assets were acquired through known sources, which were much more than the amount mentioned by the bureau.
Another reference was against former provincial minister Sher Azam Wazir and some officials of the Workers Welfare Board.
The NAB charged them with committing corruption in acquisition of land measuring 260 kanals in the provincial capital for the board. It alleged that the accused had received bribes from the land owner. However, the accused denied the charge.
The most important changes made to the law were amendment to Section 5(O) of the NAO following which the offence of ‘corruption and corrupt practices’ was defined as the one with the amount of embezzlement not less than Rs500 million.
Accused in several NAB references over alleged embezzlement of less than Rs500 million had filed applications for their acquittal on the basis of those amendments under Section 265-K of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
However, instead of acquitting them, the accountability courts returned references against them to the NAB to be referred to other appropriate forums available under the law for action.
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2023