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February 14, 2020

IHC to rule on NAB arrest powers

Top Story

February 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Hearing the PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal’s bail plea in the Narowal Sports City case on Thursday, Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah Thursday said a detailed order would be issued on the National Accountability Bureau’s authority to arrest suspects while investigations into a case were still incomplete.

Ahsan Iqbal, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz senior leader, is a key suspect in the case and is in the NAB custody. "Does NAB not have enough competence to complete investigation into the case without arresting Ahsan Iqbal?" Justice Minallah asked. “The accused is considered innocent until proven guilty. Why should we not declare unjustified arrests by the NAB illegal?" the chief justice asked.

A NAB representative told the judge that they feared that Iqbal might try to influence the case by preventing witnesses from coming forward. "On what grounds was the NAB concerned that Iqbal would try to stop witnesses from coming forward?" justice Athar asked the prosecutors. To this, he was told that the NAB had proof that Ahsan had tried to do the same in 2009. "We will issue a detailed order on the authority of NAB to make such arrests. This trend has to end somewhere, and this authority has to be justified in front of the court," Minallah said. Ahsan Iqbal’s lawyer told the court that there was no allegation of corruption or misuse of power against his client. The NAB prosecutor told the court that Ahsan was arrested on the doubt of tampering with record and leaving the country.

To this Justice, Justice Athar asked if Ahsan still had record of the ministry. “How he can tamper with the record? His name cannot be put on the ECL if there was doubt that he might leave the country,” said Justice Athar. He further remarked that the NAB investigation officer was not capable of completing inquiry without arresting Ahsan.

Giving more time for production of evidence to arrest Ahsan Iqbal, the court adjourned the hearing for one week.

Ahsan was arrest on December 23 over his alleged involvement in embezzlement of Narowal Sports City project funds.

Hearing the bail plea of former prime minister and PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the LNG scandal case, Justice Athar asked as to who was responsible for the disgrace done by the NAB after arresting people.

Justice Athar headed a division bench comprising him and Justice Lubna Pervaiz.

Justice Athar remarked that it should also be decided that how much authority the chairman NAB had to issue arrest warrants in light of evidences.

He remarked that the NAB should satisfy the court as to why the arrest of a suspect was necessary.

“Issuing wrong arrest warrants is also corruption,” he added.

He asked if Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was not cooperating in the investigation process or fleeing from country.

Abbasi’s counsel told the court that his client was arrested on a photocopy of arrest warrants and kept in the death cell.

Justice Athar asked the NAB prosecutor why Abbasi was being kept in the death cell. The prosecutor replied that Abbasi was in the judicial lockup.

Barrister Zafarullah further told the court that Abbasi was the fifth highest tax payer in the country.

He said the PTI government had written a letter to Abbasi asking him to receive an award for being among the highest tax payers.

He further told the court that his client didn’t commit any corruption and not a penny from the state kitty was spent on the LNG scandal.

“The government takes money on every shipment, then how can it be a crime? If there is corruption, then why does the incumbent government too give terminal contracts on this basis? he asked.

The court remarked that the NAB should satisfy it by presenting the investigation record.

The defense counsel informed the court that NAB was showing personal accounts of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in order to file a case against him.

The court remarked that the NAB should tell what was the reason for the arrest.

To this, the NAB prosecutor said that Abbasi was arrested on the basis of solid evidence and there had been three approvers against him.

The court adjourned the hearing till February 20.

The same court approved interim bail of ex-MD Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Ijaz Haroon in a fake accounts case.

Approving the interim bail, the court asked Ijaz Haroon to submit surety bonds worth Rs1 million against his release.

On November 21, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Rawalpindi team had arrested Chairman Overseas Cooperative Housing Society Ijaz Haroon from Karachi.

Meanwhile, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard a suo motu case pertaining to delay in hearing the cases pending with the NAB courts.

The apex court questioned the NAB performance and observed that its investigation officers and other personnel were not interested in discharging their professional obligations while dealing with the cases.

He emphasised that instead of searching for more witnesses and collecting evidences, they should concentrate on producing solid evidence and authentic witnesses.

The court directed that all vacant posts of the accountability court judges countrywide be filled. It further directed appointment of the NAB court judges in Islamabad and Quetta within one week and of two vacant posts in Karachi within 15 days.

The court observed that judges could not be appointed in the two Karachi NAB courts due to incompletion of consultation process.

The court directed that the consultation process should also be initiated for appointment of judges to the NAB courts in Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which will be falling vacant in June.

The deputy attorney general told the court that a summary for filling the posts of judges in Lahore and Quetta will be dispatched the same day to President Arif Alvi.

Replying to a question, the NAB prosecutor told the court that 1,226 cases/references were pending with the NAB courts across the country.

The chief justice directed that these cases should be concluded within six months adding that the Supreme Court disposed of 50 cases per day.

The chief justice observed that the court could not allow delay in the NAB courts cases to the inconvenience of litigants. He asked the prosecutor about the experience of the NAB personnel, to which the prosecutor said the officers were being trained in dealing with the cases in a professional manner.

“We are also taking support of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the police,” the prosecutor said.

The chief justice observed that the NAB should concentrate on quality work and ensure early conclusion of cases pending with its courts.

“It seems the high courts and government are not agreed upon the appointment of judges to the NAB courts,” the CJP said. Lateef Khosa, senior lawyer, told the court that this is also the basic issue.

The deputy attorney general, however, told the court that very soon judges will be appointed to all the NAB courts.

The court adjourned the hearing for a month.