Accountability courts not producing verdicts


Long list of witnesses, use of unnecessary documents and delaying tactics by suspects main reasons for delay
The accountability courts in Punjab are not announcing verdicts of references within the timeframe given by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance 1999 due to a long list of witnesses, use of unnecessary documentary record and delaying tactics by the defence.
Accountability courts take several months to announce a verdict on a reference after concluding the proceedings despite the fact that according to the NAB Ordinance the proceedings of a reference should be completed within a month. During the last 10 years, 558 references had been filed in accountability courts of Lahore out of which only 153 had been decided upon. The reference against Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Secretary General Senator Jahangir Badar was the only reference in which the accountability court, on the directions of the Supreme Court, had completed the proceedings in a month. But the court could not announce a verdict of the reference, as Badar had filed an application requesting the court to restrain from announcing the verdict. Most of the references took four months to complete, which was four times more than the time prescribed in the NAB Ordinance. One of the main reasons for the delay in completing the references was the court’s directions to produce a long list of witnesses. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Javed Hashmi, accused of making illegal assets, had to produce 411 witnesses in his defence wasting the court’s precious time.
In a foreign currency fraud reference against Dr Haroon Ahmed, around 3,400 claims were produced from the prosecution with each claim based on eight documents. The reference in pending in courts since the last seven years. During the proceedings, courts had to face another problem, as the prosecution could not produce the original record of the reference due to the fact that it was not present in the concerned departments. After getting released on bail, the accused use delaying tactics to prolong the proceedings of the reference. Most of the accused present an application in the court requesting provision of fresh copies of the reference, as the old copies were not clearly printed. Afterwards, the accused used other delaying tactics such as pleading not guilty and seeking adjournment of hearing of the references.
A former judge accountability court, requesting anonymity, said that accountability court judges lacked proper training to handle white-collar crime cases. He said that the accused commit crimes without any proof, which forces the prosecution to take more time in completing its task in court. Former NAB prosecutor Adnan Shuja Butt told Pakistan Today that at the time of preparing the reference, NAB did not know how much time would be spent on the proceedings of the reference. He said that all prosecutors be trained so that they could effectively pursue the cases.