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June 26, 2019

Petition regarding NAB chief video, audio clips


June 26, 2019

PESHAWAR: Rejecting the plea of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) about maintainability of the writ petition seeking to stop inquiry against its head in the audio-video case, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday directed the anti-graft body to submit comments in the case within a week.

“We do not accept the NAB’s plea this court has no jurisdiction to hear the petition. Last opportunity is being giving to the respondent chairman NAB to submit comments in the application and main writ petition within a week’s time,” a division bench comprising Justice Ikramullah Khan and Justice Musarrat Hilali told the NAB prosecutors who appeared in the case.

The bench issued direction in the petition filed by Shahid Orakzai, a citizen known for raising public interest issues in superior courts, seeking an order to immediately suspend Section 24 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and stop any action under the ordinance related to inquiry, investigation and trial of any female citizen until a decision on this application.

When the bench took up the petition for hearing, the NAB prosecutors Azimdad and Ali Muhammad, raised objection over the petition and submitted that the issue raised in it had already decided by the Supreme Court in the Asfandyar Wali Khan case regarding arrests of suspects during inquiry and investigation. Secondly, they pointed out that the matter of audio conversation is related to Islamabad or Rawalpindi and this court had no jurisdiction to hear and decide the case in Peshawar.

However, Justice Ikramullah rejected the NAB’s plea and observed that when the offices of the NAB are established in the provinces then the high courts could hear the petitions against the federation and NAB.

The petitioner moved the application in his main writ petition in which he had challenged powers of the NAB chairman under Section 24 of National Accountability Ordinance 1999 regarding the arrest of an accused at any stage of the investigation.

The petitioner claimed these powers are being misused as powerful and influential suspects are not being arrested. He termed it a massive and brutal violation of the fundamental rights as guaranteed under Article 25 of Constitution as every citizen is equal before the law.

The petitioner argued that the NAB is run by spending public money and is primarily tasked to recover public money and thus no person shall be subjected to ‘sexual plea bargain’ during any inquiry or investigation under section 24 of NAO.

The petitioner submitted that neither the NAB chairman nor the officers mentioned in section 24 of NAO can secretly pressure an accused for the purpose of sexual abuse.

The petitioner drew the court’s attention to ‘an ultra- vulgar’ conversation of the respondent NAB chairman with the woman, now an accused facing a reference in an accountability court in Lahore.

“The audio clip cannot be played in the court but a transcript can be provided to the court. The vulgarity, however, has much to do with undertones and the Urdu transcript by itself cannot explain the sexual tactics being applied against the feminine accused,” the petitioner stated in the application.

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