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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan, on Saturday, filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan under Article 184(3) of the Constitution through Khawaja Haris, challenging the amendments brought in the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 through the National Accountability (Amendment) Act (XI of) 2022, and cited the federation and the NAB as respondents.

Placing onus upon the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to prove that the assets owned and/or possessed by holders of public office as being obtained by corruption and corrupt practices will result in acquittal or discharge of all those holders of public office who are presently facing trial under Section 9(a)(v) of NAO, 1999, contended the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The petition stated; “By virtue of the impugned amendments, not only all the cases of the category mentioned in Section 4(2)(b) of the NAO, 1999, pending trial against, inter alia the Ministers, Chief Ministers, Prime Ministers, and a President stand virtually terminated. Even those Ministers, Chief Ministers or Prime Ministers, as much as all other holders of public office, and Prime Ministers who may already stand convicted prior to the promulgation of the impugned amendments, have also been provided an opportunity to have their respective convictions undone by taking advantage of the amendments made effective retrospectively, i.e. from the date of commencement of the NAO, 1999, and that too without any clause saving past and closed transactions.”

Imran Khan announces to challenge NAB amendments in Supreme Court

It further said; “By restricting prosecution qua decisions taken by the Prime Ministers, Ministers, Cabinet Members, Members and officials of Committees, and Sub-Committees, CCI, NEC, ECNEC, CDWP, PDWP, the State Bank of Pakistan, and “such other bodies”, the impugned amendment is not only unreasonable, but it also defeats the very purpose for which it is represented to have been enacted.”

“The blanket immunity from prosecution given to officials of all regulatory bodies, such as the NEPRA, the SECP, the Competition Commission of Pakistan, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, regarding all matters decided by them, is also unreasonable, unconstitutional, and against the very concept of accountability.

“The re-definition of the word “Benamidar” has been introduced in clause (e) of Section 5 of NAO, 1999, so as to pave the way for providing the benefit of acquittal to all those accused who are facing trial, or have faced trial, for offences involving allegations of holding benami assets beyond their known sources of income, notwithstanding that these accused were/are not in a position to “reasonably account for” the sources from which these assets were purchased, nor prove “payment of full and lawful consideration” thereof”.

It also said “placing the onus upon the prosecution (NAB) to prove that the assets owned and/or possessed by holders of public office as being obtained by corruption and corrupt practices, is manifestly aimed at and will result in acquittal or discharge of all those holders of public office who are presently facing trial for offences under Section 9(a)(v) of NAO, 1999, and even of those holders of a public office whose cases are pending in appeal, or already stand decided.

“Explanation II to Section 9(a)(v), as introduced by the impugned amendments, is also person/s specific and designed to provide instant grounds for acquittal in all such cases wherein fake accounts are alleged to have been opened to route money obtained from corruption and/or corrupt practices, or to conceal ownership of movable assets beyond the known sources of income of the accused.

“The third part of Explanation II of the impugned amending Act is geared towards providing blanket immunity to all such accused who are facing prosecution under NAO, 1999, trial on the basis of banking transactions, in that this portion stipulates that no such banking transaction, however illicit, shall be treated as an asset unless there is evidence of the creation of the corresponding asset through that transaction.

“The omission of Section 14 of the NAO, 1999, and consequently shifting of the burden of proof on the accused is in breach of the well-entrenched principle of law, embedded in our criminal justice system from the very outset, that in cases involving white-collar crimes, such presumptions, and consequent shifting of the burden of proof on the accused, once initial burden is discharged by the Prosecution, are inevitable to prevent the commission of the crime by holders of public office with impunity.

“The petition said by removing Section 14 from the NAO, 1999, the impugned amendment has ensured that it becomes impossible for the prosecution to prove white-collar crimes against the holders of public office, and has thereby violated the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan under Articles 9, 14, 19A and 24 of the Constitution.

“The impugned amendments are tantamount to deliberately turning a blind eye to corruption, in so far as they exclude from prosecution, all those persons who have illegally gained or benefitted from the corruption and corrupt practices of a holder of public office, only because there is no trail of evidence left by the holder of public office

“The omission of clause (g) of Section 21 of NAO, 1999, is also person/s specific and is designed to negate and frustrate the entire process of and material collected against inter alia holders of public office as a result of international cooperation by way of a request for mutual legal assistance as mandated by clauses (a) to (g) and (h) of Section 21 and is, therefore, aimed at preventing evidence gathered or obtained from abroad regarding corruption and corrupt practices of holders of public office who own assets abroad from being used against them.

“The amendment whereby the authority to appoint the NAB chairman has been taken away from the president of Pakistan and has been placed in the hands of the government, is also a maneuver by the bulk of the holders of public office to assume control over and influence the impartiality of the chairman NAB”.

The petitioner requested the Court to direct the NAB to provide details of all such cases which relate to the prominent and influential holders of public office, especially regarding cases pertaining to offenses of owning assets (movable and immovable) beyond known sources of income, and of misuse of authority.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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