The proof really lies in the law
There has been much talk about what the NAB can, cannot, should and should not do when it comes to the former ruling family. Perhaps it’s time that’s cleared up.
As per section 24 of National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999, The Chairman NAB has the power, at any stage of the inquiry or investigation under the Ordinance, to direct that the accused, if not already arrested, shall be arrested. From perusal of provisions of Section 18(a) of NAO, 1999, it is clear that the NAB Court is precluded from taking cognizance of any offence under the National Accountability Ordinance, unless there is a reference made by the Chairman, NAB or an officer of the NAB duly authorised. Whereas, in terms of Section 18(b) of NAO, 1999, a reference under the NAO can be initiated by the National Accountability Bureau, on a reference received from the appropriate government or receipt of complaint, or its own accord or ordered by the Court.
Similarly, in terms of Section 18(c) of the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999, the Chairman NAB or an officer of the NAB duly authorised by him, before initiating any proceedings against any person or referring the matter for inquiry or investigation, shall form an opinion to the effect that it is necessary and appropriate to initiate such proceedings against any person, and thereafter the matter may be referred for inquiry and investigation. Section 18(d) provides that responsibility for any lawfully instituted inquiry and investigation of an offence alleged to have been committed under the NAO, 1999, shall vest on the NAB to the exclusion of any other agency or authority, unless such agency or authority is required to do so by the Chairman, NAB or by any officer of the NAB duly authorised by him for the purposes of conducting an inquiry and investigation. Section 18(e) provides that the Chairman, NAB and such officers of the NAB shall have, and exercise, for the purpose of an inquiry or investigation, the powers to arrest any person, and all the powers of an officer-In charge of a Police Station under the Code.
Section 24 of the NAO, 1999, relate to the powers of arrest by the Chairman, NAB or an officer of the NAB duly authorised by him in this regard. In terms of Section 24(a) of the NAO, 1999 the Chairman, NAB, has been authorised to arrest an accused at any stage of the inquiry or investigation under NAO, 1999. Section 24(b) requires the Chairman, NAB or an officer of the NAB duly authorised by him to decide to refer the case to Court by preparing a reference which shall contain the substance of the offence or offences as the case may be alleged to have been committed by the accused, whereas, copy of such reference is to be sent to the Registrar of the Court to which a case has been sent to try the accused, and another copy is to be delivered to the accused.
Section 24(d) provides that an accused of an offence if arrested by the NAB Authorities under the NAO, 1999, the NAB shall, as soon as may be, inform him of the grounds and substance on the basis of which he has been arrested and to produce him before the Court within a period of twenty four hours of arrest. The Court in appropriate cases on the basis of valid grounds may remand an accused person to the custody of the NAB Authorities. Section 24(f) authorises the Chairman, NAB to declare and notify any place as a Police Station or a sub-jail at his discretion.
The arrest of an accused required under the NAO, 1999, can be made at three different stages in terms of the proceedings. First stage being that if, after receipt of any information as provided under Section 18(b) of the NAO, 1999, Chairman, NAB, forms an opinion that reasonable complaint has been made or credible information has been received or reasonable suspicion exists that accused is involved in the case cognizable under the NAO, 1999, then he may arrest the accused person, provided that there is some inquiry or investigation, duly authorised by the competent authority, pending against the accused under the NAO, 1999. Second stage of arrest is provided under Section 18(e) of the NAO, 1999, where, Chairman NAB can make arrest of an accused if conditions as mentioned in Section 54 Cr.P.C. are fulfilled, or if the Investigating Officer conducting such inquiry or investigation requests for permission to arrest the accused, then he can grant such permission of arrest of the accused, however, after examining the grounds/reasons and the incriminating material produced by the Investigating Officer which may justify such permission of arrest. The third stage is visualised under Section 24(a) of the NAO, 1999, under which, if accused is neither arrested by the Chairman, NAB initially, nor as provided under Section 18(e) of the NAB Ordinance, then Chairman, NAB can direct that such accused person may be arrested.
It is clear from the aforementioned legal position that Chairman, NAB under Section 24 of the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999, may give directions to arrest all the accused persons, in the ongoing corruption inquiry and investigation related to Hudaibiya Papers Mills, Avenfield Properties, Azizia Steel Company and Hill Metal Company and possessing assets beyond his known sources of income, including Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, his three children, son-in-law and former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. It is a matter of record that Chairman NAB had issued several directions to arrest accused persons after serving them call-up notices prior to the investigations in many corruption cases. Dr Asim’s case is a relevant example, as he was arrested in a corruption case prior to the commencement of investigation.