- Newly appointed prosecutor general is a staunch PPP supporter, was deputy attorney general during party’s term in government
- Sharifs believe Khawar holds grudge against them for not making him permanent judge of LHC
- Appointment of Shah Khawar made in violation of judgement of Justice Issa
ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is feeling cornered again after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday appointed former adhoc judge Shah Khawar as its special prosecutor.
The PML-N expressed its reservations and termed the special prosecutor’s appointment as “prejudicial” to the party, especially the Sharif family, since Shah Khawar has been an outspoken critic of the ruling family and a staunch Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) supporter.
Sources in the ruling party believe that the recently appointed prosecutor will come down hard on the Sharif family in the graft cases filed against them, particularly the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. The ruling family is apprehensive of Shah Khawar as they believe that he holds a grudge against the PML-N government for denying him extension in 2015 when he was serving as an additional judge at the Lahore High Court.
The party’s apprehensions were expressed by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who asked the NAB chairman to reconsider Khawar’s appointment as the latter is a known Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) supporter and was appointed deputy attorney general during the PPP’s tenure in return for his services to the party.
Sanaullah said that Khawar had been speaking against the PML-N and its leadership in TV talk shows during the last eight months.
The minister also clarified that Khawar was made an additional judge at the LHC but due to his controversial character, he was not made a permanent judge.
The minister further said that crucial slot required a professional and uncontroversial person while Khawar’s appointment was not in line with these qualities.
According to information available with Pakistan Today, NAB Chairman Justice (r) Javed Iqbal accorded the approval for Khawar’s appoint as NAB’s prosecutor after the federal government and NAB made intensive consultations for the appointment of the prosecutor general. Under the law, the federal government has to consult with the NAB chairman for the appointment.
A statement issued by NAB stated that the Bureau was facing difficulty in high-profile cases at the Supreme Court (SC) and accountability courts due to the absence of an expert prosecutor general. “Shah Khawar will be representing the NAB in all the important cases, including the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case at the apex court. He will fill the post on an immediate basis,” read the communiqué.
The position had fallen vacant in November after Waqas Qadeer Dar completed his three-year tenure. Nevertheless, there remained a deadlock over the new appointment as both the PML-N leadership and NAB chief wanted to appoint a person of their own choice.
Earlier in the day, NAB officials requested the Supreme Court to adjourn the hearing of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case till the appointment of a new prosecutor general, but the three-member bench of the apex court rejected the plea.
Justice Musheer Alam, in his remarks, stated that there was no point for adjourning the hearing.
A government official, requesting anonymity, said that the appointment of a special prosecutor was against the verdict of Justice Qazi Faez Issa.
The judge had stated that private counsels could not be appointed in the presence of already available law officers, except in extraordinary circumstances. “The NAB has at present nearly 20 prosecutors so this appointment can be challenged in context of Justice Qazi Faez Issa’s judgement, the official added.
However, another source contended that Khawar’s appointment as special prosecutor would not only save the Sharif family in the Hudaibiya Papers Mills case, but will also provide relief to the PPP from NAB in the coming months.
Shah Khawar and the NAB spokesperson were unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.
The Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering reference was initiated on the basis of a confessional statement of Ishaq Dar on April 25, 2000, in which he had admitted to his role in laundering money to the tune of $14.86 million on behalf of the Sharifs through fictitious accounts. The witness was, however, pardoned by the then NAB chairman.
While Nawaz Sharif was not named in the interim reference filed in March 2000, in the final reference against the Hudaibiya Paper Mills — approved by then NAB chairman Khalid Maqbool — the bureau had accused Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz.
The LHC had quashed the case in 2014 as the PML-N continued to claim that Dar’s statement was taken under duress.