ISLAMABAD: Another attempt by accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir to go on leave has hit a snag, as his application has been withheld for the time being.

The judge, who recently convicted former prime minister Imran Khan and his spouse Bushra Bibi in the Toshakhana case, filed for a Leave Preparatory to Retirement (LPR).

His fourth term as the accountability court judge will expire on March 14 and he will reach the age of superannuation in April.

On January 20, while he was hearing the case against Mr Khan and his spouse, Mr Bashir applied for medical leave till retirement.

Mohammad Bashir sought LPR after convicting Imran, Bushra; application yet to be approved

He later withdrew the application and continued the trial. After convicting the ex-PM, the judge again wrote to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the law ministry on Feb 1 for a leave.

In the letters, Mr Bashir stated that he could not perform his duties due to deteriorating health.

Sources said that Mr Bashir had sought LPR for health reasons as he is reportedly suffering from high blood pressure and hypertension.

A day before he sentenced Mr Khan and Ms Bibi in the Toshakhana case on Wednesday (Jan 31), Judge Bashir abruptly left the courtroom after feeling unwell. He was treated by doctors in the Adiala Jail hospital.

His application has been withheld as the IHC and the ministry look for a replacement judge to transfer cases being heard by Mr Bashir.

He is the only judge overseeing all three accountability courts of Islamabad.

In an order issued on October 18, 2023, the Ministry of Law and Justice defined the procedure to govern the accountability court in case of the unavailability of a judge.

“In case of non-availability of judges of accountability, the judicial work will be attended by the Judge Special Court ATC-I or in his absence Judge, Special Court-II, Islamabad or in the absence of both, the judge Special Court (Central-I), or in his absence, Judge Special Court (Central-II), Islamabad.”

As per the notification, the judges who could preside over the accountability court included Judge Zulqarnain, Judge Shahrukh Arjumand or, in his absence, Judge Dilawar.

Interestingly, two of the judges — Judge Zulqarnain and Judge Dilawar — have previously sentenced the ex-PM, Imran Khan.

Last year, Judge Dilawar sentenced the PTI founder to three years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs100,000 for concealing details of Toshakhana gifts in his asset declaration.

Earlier this week, Judge Zulqarnain handed Mr Khan 10 years in jail in the cipher case.

Judge Bashir is also occupied with the hearing of the 190 million pounds case against Mr Khan and his spouse and is supposed to indict them on Feb 10.

He is also hearing another Toshakhana reference involving former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Yousuf Raza Gilani, and former president Asif Ali Zardari.

Other cases he is also presiding over are the fake account case against Mr Zardari and a NAB reference against former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Previously, Judge Bashir had convicted former prime minister Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif in 2018.

He has been in the accountability court since 2012 and is the longest-serving judge who has retained this post for 12 years.

According to the National Accountability Ordinance, a judge can hold the office of the accountability judge for three years only. However, Judge Bashir’s term has been extended thrice since his appointment.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2024

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