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October 9, 2020

Corrupt roaming free, NAB mustn’t be partial: Pakistan is not banana republic, says Supreme Court

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October 9, 2020

Corrupt roaming free, NAB mustn’t be partial: Pakistan is not banana republic, says Supreme Court

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court, while hearing a bail petition of an accused pertaining to a case regarding the disappearance of oil tankers, remarked on Thursday that corruption was rampant in the country, and the corrupt were roaming free.

A three-member bench of apex court, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin, granted bail to Muhammad Aslam, one of the accused in the Nandipur Power Plant and oil tankers disappearance case.

As the hearing started, Zubair Khalid, the lawyer for the accused, told the court that his client was accused in the case of 134 missing oil tankers, carrying supplies to the Nandipur Power Project, which caused tens of millions of rupees loss.

The lawyer said that there were 34 accused in the reference, but the NAB arrested just one suspect.

The court expressed its displeasure over the matter. Justice Mushir Alam said that NAB should not discriminate, while Justice Amin said the NAB was not using its powers in an equitable manner.

The judges observed that a total of 134 tankers were missing and NAB has arrested the person who was accused over six missing tankers. Justice Amin further said that NAB should end corruption, which was rampant.

He added that all defendants should be treated equally. The special prosecutor of NAB informed the court that the Bureau first nabbed the mastermind.

Justice Mushir Alam said that one accused stole 12 tankers, another 17 and a third one 13 oil tankers, but the NAB arrested the man accused of six missing tankers. Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that NAB should explain the arrest of just one accused.

The special prosecutor said that warrants had been issued for nine other accused in the case. However, Justice Amin said that only warrants had been issued but no arrests were made.

The court sought report from NAB on the arrest of other accused in the case and granted bail to accused Muhammad Aslam.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court questioned how a Pakistani citizen could be extradited to the US when there existed no such treaty between the two countries.

This observation from the apex court came during the hearing of a case against a Pakistani national accused in the New York Times Square attack. Justice Mushir Alam headed the three-member bench hearing the case.

The accused, Talha Haroon, 19, had challenged his extradition in the apex court. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2016 after the US authorities identified him as one of three men, along with a Canadian citizen and a man from the Philippines, planning attacks on Manhattan’s Times Square and the city’s subway.

An additional deputy commissioner general (ADCG) had ordered Talha’s extradition to the US after conducting an inquiry. The apex court issued a notice to the attorney general for Pakistan for assistance on the matter.

The court declared the documents shared by the government in the matter insufficient and directed the additional attorney general to submit to it a comprehensive report pertaining to extradition of persons with other countries as well as submitting further documents relating to the nature of the offence of the petitioner.

The bench directed that a representative of the Ministry of Interior should be in the court on the next date of hearing. At the outset of hearing, Justice Mushir Alam asked the law officer if extradition of people between the countries was a bilateral process.

“Pakistan is not a dummy and banana republic hence you should give an advice to the government in this regard,” he said.

Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed observed that the US had no extradition treaty with Pakistan adding when there was no treaty, the complaint of the US should have been notified in the gazette as required under Section 4 of the Extradition Act 1972, promulgated by Pakistan.

Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, however, contended that there was no need to do so, as it was available in Section 3 of the said Extradition Act 1972.

He said both the US and Britain had signed an extradition treaty in 1931 which was implemented by British India in 1942 and later on February 20, 1973 Pakistan had rectified the said treaty through (SROs).

A representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also told the court that the British India as well as Pakistan had rectified the bilateral treaty of the US and Britain made in 1931.

Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, Additional Attorney General, in pursuance of the court’s last order submitted a report on the behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that in the year 2008, two persons namely, Farid Tawaqal and Farooq Tawaqal, involved in offences related to corruption were extradited to the United States.

Similarly, he submitted that one Aamer Ahmed, a US national, was extradited from Pakistan to the United States (US) in the year 2014-15.

On the last hearing, the court sought a detailed and comprehensive report stating if there was any extradition treaty signed by Pakistan with the United States and United Kingdom besides furnishing details as to how many Pakistanis had been handed over to these countries and details pertaining to Pakistanis extradited from these countries as well.

Sajid Ilyas Bhatti submitted that Talha Haroon had been accused of planning attacks on Manhattan’s Times Square and the city’s subway adding that he was in the US at that time.

He contended that as per the International Convention, a person accused in terrorism related cases could be handed over to a country, which asked for it. Justice Munib Akhtar, however, observed that this did not need a convention but a treaty.

“A case of terrorism is before us but the treaty you are referring to which is 1931, nothing is mentioned there regarding terrorism,” Justice Munib Akhtar told Sajid Ilyas Bhatti. “I am taking your case at the highest level but terrorism is not there”, Justice Munib Akhtar further told the law officer.

The judge further pointed out that as per documents, it was not clear whether Talha Haroon was in the US or not. “The documents you have attached with the file are not true,” Justice Munib Akhtar told the law officer.

Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin observed that the nature of crime had not yet been ascertained. “Whether the accused conducted a bomb blast, whether anyone has been killed and what nature of crime he has committed?” Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin asked the additional attorney general.

The court further questioned whether the complaint lodged by the US was an offence under the Extradition Act 1972 promulgated by Pakistan, as it was missing in the schedule as well. The court asked Sajid Ilyas Bhatti to seek instructions from the government in this regard.

The court also asked the representative of Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appear before it on the next date of hearing with full preparation as well as with complete documents. Tariq Mahmood, counsel for the accused, Talha Haroon, submitted before the court that the apex court had already ordered extradition of Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, however, he said the US had not yet extradited Mr. Haqqani to Pakistan.

The counsel pleaded the court that his client has been behind the bars for more than four years; therefore, he should be released on bail. The court, however, declined the request and adjourned further hearing for two weeks.