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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Monday, issued notices to the chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a contempt of court petition against him for not acting against former military ruler General (retired) Pervez Musharraf for his alleged corruption during his tenure as the head of the country.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan heard Inamur Rahim advocate’s petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against the chairman NAB for not initiating an inquiry into the allegations that Musharraf in his nomination papers had declared assets beyond his known sources of income.

During the hearing, the petitioner urged that by accepting the instant petition, the respondent may be summoned and contempt of court proceedings may very graciously be initiated against the respondent as provided under the Constitution and Law on the subject in order to meet the ends of justice.

After hearing his arguments, the bench issued notices to the chairman NAB and deferred the hearing till February 14 for further proceedings in this matter.

The IHC, in January 2018, had held that the NAB could proceed against retired generals over corruption charges.

The verdict cleared a 19-year-old ambiguity in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) of 1999 due to which the anti-corruption watchdog had always been reluctant to proceed against retired army officers despite complaints of massive corruption.

The bench issued the judgment, while hearing the petition filed by Inamur Rahim Advocate.

Rahim, in his complaint, filed nine years ago, asked the NAB to hold an inquiry into the allegation that the retired general in his nomination papers had declared assets beyond his known sources of income. In a 2013 letter, the Bureau informed Rahim that his complaint could not be entertained for want of jurisdiction because Musharraf was immune from proceedings under the NAO as a member of the armed forces.

However, in a landmark judgment issued in 2018, the court ruled, “The bureau is vested with the power and jurisdiction to consider the complaint of the petitioner and after such consideration if it is of the opinion that an offence under the Ordinance of 1999 is prima facie made out, then it will become a duty of the latter to proceed to inquire, investigate and take all other steps mandated under the Ordinance of 1999.”

The petitioner argued that Musharraf, as the chief of the army staff and the country’s president, violated his oath of defending the country and protecting its citizens. Pointing to the page 237 of Musharraf’s book, “In the Line of Fire”, and its chapter titled, “Man Hunt”, Rahim mentioned that the former military ruler admitted to handing over many people to the United States to make money. The petitioner also alleged that Musharraf “injected corruption into the senior hierarchy of the armed forces by allotting them plots over and above their entitlements”.

In the contempt petition, Rahim stated that Musharraf illegally disposed of thousands of acres of precious lands situated in various cantonments, violating the rules and regulations in this regard. In the Karachi cantonment alone, some 2,125 acres were disposed of, whose details had already been provided to the NAB.

He added that besides, a list of properties worth billions of rupees allegedly grabbed by Musharraf was also forwarded to the NAB. Rahim further said that those properties had never been disclosed by the retired general earlier as he neither submitted his income tax returns nor paid any tax during his tenure as per a Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)’s report issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The petitioner, citing the NAB’s standard operating procedures, pointed out that the bureau could have completed the inquiry within four months, followed by an investigation in another four months, after which the maximum extended period by the NAB’s regional director general is one month.

Therefore, he stated the case must have been developed enough to be placed before an accountability court within nine months.

He mentioned that following the court’s directives, the NAB only issued a call-up notice to the petitioner and did not make any further effort.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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