ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is befuddled by the Supreme Court’s detailed order over the dismissal of its plea for reopening the 17-year-old Hudabiya Paper Mills case while setting aside a Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict handed down in 2014.
The apex court’s three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, on Friday issued a 36-page detailed judgment, which said members of Sharif family were denied due process.
A senior official in the NAB told media that the corruption watchdog would file a review petition against the SC’s judgment next week, adding that the bureau was seriously considering making a request for forming a larger bench to hear the case.
“We are very surprised that the bench on December 15 dismissed the NAB’s petition on the grounds of time limitation but unnecessarily discussed merit of the case in its detailed verdict,” he added.
He said the court wrongly endorsed the LHC’s 2014 order to discard former finance minister Ishaq Dar’s confession with regard to his involvement in money laundering for the Sharifs.
Judges of the high court in the impugned judgment observed that a magistrate was not competent to record a statement under section 26 (e) of the NAB Ordinance, adding that such statement could only be recorded “before the chairman, NAB or the Court.”
According to the NAB official, the SC completely misinterpreted this legal point and they would explain it in the review petition
NAB’s former deputy prosecutor general Raja Amir Abbas said, “It is a fit case of review as there are several law points which need to be further considered by the apex court.”
He said there were two views regarding the LHC’s 2014 verdict to quash the Hudabiya Paper Mills scam.
“One view is expressed by two judges – Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahman – in the April 20 Panamagate verdict. They wrote that soundness of the reasons prevailing with the LHC for quashing the reference was ‘suspected’. On the other hand, the recent verdict has completely backed the LHC’s reasoning to quash the reference against the Sharif family. In view of these two opinions, it will be appropriated that a larger bench is constituted to hear the matter,” he added.
Raja said in criminal cases the court could not close the door for reinvestigation and the case could be reopened on the basis of new evidence. A constitutional petition can also be filed under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, he said, adding that Justice Khosa had rightly interpreted the law on this point.
Legal wizards have begun comparing the Hudabiya verdict with the Panamagate ruling.
Pakistan Bar Council (PBA) member Raheel Kamran Sheikh said the two verdicts reflected two different realities in Pakistan.
“The Panama verdict highlights corruption in the political elite and how they use state machinery to their advantage while the Hudabiya case judgment depicts how accountability has been historically used for political engineering by non-democratic powers,” he added.
Sheikh said what emerged as a reality in these two perspectives was the absence of a strong, independent, effective and fair system of accountability in the state.
Experts debate whether the conflicting judgments will make the Supreme Court stronger or weaker and whether the Sharif family may gain favour from this ruling during their trial in the accountability court.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed into Sharif’s alleged corruption was appreciated in the Panamagate case judgment but the recent verdict has left a question mark over the JIT’s reasons to reopen Hudabiya case, some legal minds believe.
It is learnt that the government is yet to appoint a new prosecutor general (PG) for NAB. The SC has already asked the Attorney General for Pakistan to take instruction from the government regarding delay in the appointment of NAB prosecutor general. The bench will take up the matter on Monday [tomorrow].
The post has been vacant since the month of November when the three-year tenure of former PG Waqas Qadeer Dar concluded. Under the law, the federal government must fill the post in consultation with NAB chairman.
A senior NAB official reveled that without a PG, the NAB cannot move any appeal or petition in the courts in view of the LHC’s verdict. However, special prosecutor Imranul Haq will draft the review petition next week and it will be filed after approval of NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal.