NAB files review petition against SC verdict in Hudaibiya case

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–NAB’s 40-page appeal states reinvestigation of case cannot be stopped

–Claims SC overlooked several materials submitted by anti-graft watchdog

 

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Monday filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Hudaibiya case.

The country’s top graft-buster has been pursuing the Hudaibiya Mills case but to no avail. SC’s dismissal of the reopening plea led to the filing of a review petition against the verdict in a case against the Sharif family.

On Dec 15, a three-judge bench of the apex court had rejected the bureau’s appeal to reopen the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference, challenging the 2014 order of the Lahore High Court to quash it.

The SC’s detailed order on its decision to reject NAB’s appeal stated that the case had been dismissed as the appeal was time-bound and that the matter had died its death while it was being dragged through various courts for years.

REVIEW PETITION:

The NAB, in its review petition, stated that the SC ruled on its appeal in three days, adding that a reinvestigation of the case cannot be stopped.

The 40-page appeal was prepared by NAB’s special prosecutor Imranul Haq.

The petition also stated that the SC overlooked several materials provided by NAB.

In the review petition, spread over 25-30 pages, NAB has stated that it had decided, in a board meeting after April, 2017, to reopen the case on its own.

The NAB has challenged, among other points of the detailed order, paragraph 23 which states that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, were “subjected to intensive investigation and by those who would be considered inimical to them”.

Petition states that SC discarded the statement of Ishaq Dar on wrong premises as it was recorded before learned Magistrate after grant of pardon, by Chairman NAB; as required under section 26 NAO1999, as per prevailing practice of recording of statement of approver before Magistrate even in ordinary criminal cases, although not required by specific provision of CrPC.

“The reference to Sec 26(e) of NAO in paragraph No. 29 of the judgment under review may be reconsidered for the reasons that; Sec 26 of NAO 1999 contains two part; the first part of sec 26 (a) (b) of NAO 1999, pertains to tender of the pardon by Chairman NAB and recording the statement before him. The second part i.e Sec 26 (d) (e) of NAO 1999 pertains to examination of approver during trial and in case of resiling from conditions of pardon, the proceeding against approver at subsequent trial,” the petition states.

That in the original text of Ordinance XVIII of 1999, National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999, pardon was / is completed within Section 26(a) of NAO 1999 , whereas after the amendment made on 05-07-2000 by virtue of Ordinance XXIV of 2000 pardon is/was completed within Section 26(a)(b) of NAO 1999.(Clause (c) would not be relevant in the instant case), the petition argued.

Rest of the clauses of Section 26 (d) (e) have no nexus with the grant of pardon and would come into play; if a witness resile from his disclosure made to the Chairman NAB, hence this important provision of law has been overlooked in the judgment under review and on the contrary the wrong interpretation on the subject has been endorsed and approved by this Hon’ble Court which is an error floating on the surface of the judgment which needs to be rectified.

It is submitted that keeping the Reference 5 of 2000, adjourned Sine Die was a collusive arrangement of PPP, PML-N and regime of General Pervez Musharraf. This was the reason that the NAB authorities did not show interest in prosecution of Reference No. 5 of 2000.

Due to these circumstances, it could not be said that after 2007, the regime of General Pervez Musharraf or of the PPP are inimical towards PML-N rather they were instrumental in bringing back Sharif family into the political arena.

The Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, involving money laundering charges against the Sharif family, was initiated by NAB in 2000 but quashed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) in 2014. The NAB had appealed the LHC decision in the Supreme Court.

The three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justices Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Miankhel, that dismissed the appeal last year issued a detailed verdict this year.

SC’S DETAILED ORDER:

The apex court’s detailed order on its decision to reject NAB’s appeal to reopen the Hudaibiya reference stated that — contrary to a widely-held belief — neither the Panama Papers case joint investigation team, nor Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had ever issued any explicit directions for the reopening of the Hudaibiya reference.

This had been an important sticking point during the hearing of the petition, with the judges repeatedly telling the prosecutor in the case “not to parrot from the Panamagate verdict” without understanding it.

The reference, which named several defendants — including Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif — had been filed in 2000 against the accused’s alleged operation of benami overseas accounts in 1990. However, the National Accountability Bureau failed to pursue it rigorously and the case was dismissed by the Lahore High Court in 2011 after being adjourned repeatedly.

The SC’s judgment states that the dismissal of the case was a well-founded decision as the reference had by then gone well beyond its expiry date. And while a high court judge later ordered a fresh probe into the case, the SC said the judge had weak grounds to do so.

“In this case, we have come to the painful conclusion that respondents 1 to 9 were denied due process. The legal process was abused by keeping the reference pending indefinitely and unreasonably. The said respondents were denied the right to vindicate themselves. The reference served no purpose but to oppress them. We have also noted with grave concern the lack of commitment and earnestness on part of NAB at the relevant time,” the court noted.

Penned by Justice Qazi Faiz Essa, the detailed judgment also stated that the NAB chairman seems to have done nothing in the last four years to pursue the case. Admonishing the corruption watchdog’s dilly-dallying on the matter, the court stated that the case seems to have been kept pending for an indefinite period, which was “an insult to the legal process.”

The decision further said the Sharif family was deprived of their rights to defend themselves and that the purpose of the reference seems to have been just to pressurise the accused at a moment of the prosecutor’s choosing.