KARACHI - The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to continue its inquiries against provincial assembly members and bureaucrats.
Opposition parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)–Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League–Functional (PML-F) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), had jointly filed a petition in SHC challenging the controversial National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 Repeal Bill, 2017 (now Act) recently enacted by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led provincial government.
The law strips away NAB's powers to take action against provincial government officials in Sindh.
During the course of hearing, Additional Attorney General Salman Talibud Din, Advocate General Sindh Barrister Zameer Ghumroo from government side while Barrister Farrukh Naseem from opposition and Faisal Siddique Advocate from Civil Society appeared before court.
A two-member bench, led by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh, also ordered the Sindh advocate general to provide names of provincial assembly members who voted for the bill and those under inquiry by NAB.
The chief justice remarked that court will give decision after day to day hearing of the case.
The court directed the anti-graft body to continue its investigations till the final judgment is announced by the court but added that any final report in the investigation should not be presented.
NAB is presently probing into corruption charges against over 60 bureaucrats and politicians including Law Minister Zia-ul-Hassan Lanjar, MPA Faqir Dad Khoso, Sharmila Farooqi, Sharjeel Memon, former chief secretary Siddiq Memon, Aijaz Chaudhry, former member Board of Revenue Shazar Shamoon, Secretary Badar Jameel, Ali Ahmed Lond, Managing Director Water Board Hashim Raza Zaidi, former education minister Pir Mazharul Haq, MNA Mir Munawar Talpur, MPA Ali Mardan Shah, former administrator Karachi Rauf Akhter and former chairman Inter Board Anwar Zai. The federal body filed over a hundred references in the past year.
Arguing over the bill, the Sindh advocate general remarked that under the 18th Amendment, the provincial assembly had powers to pass such a bill.
Responding to this, the SHC chief justice remarked that this means the federal anti-corruption courts, anti-terrorism courts and anti-narcotics courts should be shut down.
The case was then adjourned until August 22.
Speaking to the media, PPP MPA Saeed Ghani questioned the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government's decision to set up a parallel Ehtesab Commission in the province, saying how could they [PTI leaders] oppose a similar move in Sindh?
On Tuesday, former Sindh inspector general of police Ghulam Haider Jamali filed a petition to halt a corruption reference against him in an accountability court arguing that he couldn’t be tried in a NAB court after the Sindh Assembly enacted the NAO 1999 Repeal Act, 2017.
Meanwhile, Sindh Assembly’s Standing Committee on Rules and procedures and Privileges on Wednesday directed the Director General NAB Sindh to appear before the Committee on August 24 to clear his position on his statement over casting doubts over intention of lawmakers in repealing NAB law from the province.
The committee members expressed annoyance over absence of the DG NAB Altaf Bawany from the meeting.
It is pertinent to mention here that the NAB DG Altaf Bawany casted doubts on intention of the lawmakers in repealing NAB law in the province during a televised programme and said that it might be done to save corrupt practices in the province.
The issue was raised in the Provincial Assembly by PPP lawmaker stating that it had breached their privilege as a provincial lawmaker and the matter was sent to the Standing Committee on Privilege.
On Wednesday, chairing the meeting, the Committee Chairman and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmed Khuhro expressed his annoyance over absence of DG NAB from the proceedings of the committee.
“If he had appeared before court in the morning then he could easily appear before the Committee in afternoon,” he said, adding, that his absence from the Committee meeting was inappropriate.
He said that the Committee had the power to summon any government official.
“We wanted to give him a chance to clear his remarks regarding Provincial Assembly lawmakers,” he said.
He further said that there are procedures to apologise on the matter but the DG NAB had not followed them.
Speaking during the meeting, Minister for law and Prison Zia ul Hassan Lanjhar said that if the DG NAB had a busy schedule then he should have informed the Committee in writing.
The Committee Chairman said that a notice would be issued to the DG NAB and if he would not respond to it then they would decide the future course of action against him.
Later talking to media, Khuhro said that the Provincial Assembly had all the right to legislate on the NAB Ordinance and the Opposition parties are equally entitled to move court on any of the issue.
“We will put forward our case in the court and will further comment on the issue after the court gives its verdict on this issue,” he said.
He further said that summoning the details of lawmakers who voted for the law is not an act of harassment from the court and instead it was their right to seek details of the matter.