New law makes it harder for the NAB

May 14, 2023

It has been argued that if the NAB is not to have sweeping powers it should be disbanded

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ne of the key changes introduced by the recent legislation with regard to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) pertains to the remand procedure in accountability courts. Before the amendment, a person arrested by the NAB could be remanded into the bureau’s custody for 90 days. However, under the amended law, the duration of physical remand has been reduced to 14 days. The remand period refers to the duration during which a suspect can be detained for questioning. The reduction in the physical remand period aims to prevent rights abuse by law enforcement.

In the past political leaders, particularly those in the opposition, have been subject to extended periods of physical remand. Considering few convictions have resulted, there has been a widespread perception that the law was used if not meant to harass political rivals.

The courts have a significant role in interpreting and implementing the new provisions. In several cases, the courts have applied the new remand procedure and evaluated its impact on the accused and the overall accountability process. In one notable case, in 2020, the Lahore High Court granted bail to a former senator who had been in NAB custody for over 60 days. The court held that the NAB had failed to produce any concrete evidence of the accused person’s involvement in corruption. Furthermore, the court observed that the 90-day remand period provided under the amended law was not intended to allow the NAB to undertake a “fishing expedition” in search of evidence.

In another case in 2021, the Islamabad High Court had held that the NAB had failed to produce concrete evidence of corruption against a former minister who had been in its custody for more than 60 days. The court observed that the NAB’s reliance on general allegations and circumstantial evidence was insufficient to justify the extended remand. These judgments highlight the importance of judicial oversight and scrutiny of the remand procedure in NAB courts. The courts have a crucial role in ensuring that the NAB does not abuse its powers and that the accountability process is conducted fairly and transparently.

The fairness of the accountability process depends on several factors beyond the remand procedure, including the quality of investigation, the independence of the National Accountability Bureau and the legal framework for accountability.

In July, the federal cabinet passed the National Accountability (Third Amendment) Bill, 2022. Fresh legislation aims at restricting the watchdog’s role to corruption cases involving Rs 500 million or more and take away the president’s authority to appoint judges to the accountability courts.

It is essential to note that the effectiveness of the NAB and the fairness of the accountability process depend on several factors beyond the remand procedure, such as the quality of investigation, the independence of the NAB, and the overall legal framework for accountability. The changes to the remand procedure are a significant step towards strengthening accountability in Pakistan. They must be implemented in conjunction with other measures to ensure that the accountability process is effective and fair.

In a recent development, the NAB arrested a former prime minister, Imran Khan, in the Al-Qadir Trust case. The case pertains to the allegedly illegal acquisition of land for Al-Qadir University, involving unlawful benefits provided in the recovery of crime proceeds (190 million pounds) through the National Crime Agency, UK. The NAB has said the arrest was made in keeping with the lawful procedures of inquiry and investigation. It says several notices were issued to Khan and his wife, the trustees of the Al-Qadir Trust. However, neither the former prime minister nor his wife responded to any of the call-up notices.

Finally, Khan was arrested following the issuance of a warrant dated May 1. Later, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared that the arrest was legal.

The amendment limits physical remand to no more than fourteen days and requires that the suspects be produced before a court within 24 hours of arrest. Given the equal protection of law, the NAB cannot detain Khan for longer than 14 days.

The writer, an advocate of Sindh High Court, is a legal advisor for the Jang Group. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in law. He can be reached at

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