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ISLAMABAD: The Federation’s counsel told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that Imran Khan as prime minister and members of his cabinet repeatedly stated that there is a serious problem with the NAB law.

Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing the federation, submitted that it is on record that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ministers including Minister for Information, Minister for Finance, and Minister for Law at a number of times had stated that there is a serious problem with the NAB law. “It is not misreported in the press, but we have the USB, which contains the statements of the PTI ministers, criticising the NAB law.”

Makhdoom said the PTI government had issued five ordinances to make changes in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, but now the petitioner (Imran Khan) has approached the apex court against the law passed by the Parliament. The petitioner never admitted the fact that democracy is a number game, he added.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah heard former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s petition against the amendments in the NAO, 1999.

The chief justice said the laws are amended with the majority of the members, present in the Assembly if the quorum is complete. Makhdoom informed that more than 159 members voted for the amendments in the NAO. The court noted that probably some members of the opposition were also present at that time.

Justice Bandial said they are looking at the way forward in this case. Striking down the law is not the choice, but there are other choices. The Federation’s counsel contended that the way forward is not to destroy the law, but to correct the law.

During his argument, Makhdoom referred to many judgments of the US Supreme Court, saying that the US Courts always preferred that political issues are settled by the politicians in the Parliament. The chief justice remarked if the Court expresses views on political issues, then more controversy emerges. Makhdoom said for the last 54 years the US Court did not strike down any law.

The chief justice said there is political controversy right from the partition of the Subcontinent. Corruption has been the problem. This has been an issue in society, and today again, it is an issue in our society and it has divided the society.

The CJP asked the counsel that you have accepted that there has to be a balance between the public at large and personal interest of individuals. “How and to what extent we (the SC) go on protecting this. We (judges) are to defend, protect and preserve the constitution and the constitution means the people. How far we can go? What criteria should be adopted?

“We have anti-corruption laws, which have survived all the years with the acceptance of the people to nominate the person who holds the public offices, who are responsible and accountable.”

The amendments have relaxed and diluted the criteria of accountability. Should the court accept these things and stay away from these things, which are not beneficial for the people? The Courts discuss the constitutional issue, and not social issues. The trust doctrine governs the public office holders. Each one of us has trust of the public; how to carry it out, the CJP asked.

The chief justice said certain funds are vested in the apex court. “We have put them in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). We are waiting for the chance how it be used for the best interest of the country. We are trustee of the fund (Dam Fund).” It is on the SC’s website, therefore, the criticism diminished. Trust element has been discharged.

Makhdoom said in his submission he stated that trust is essential, the heart of the matter. “Trust the parliament, trust the politicians and trust the different points of view.” The chief justice said; “People have trust on us (the SC), and we have pointed out that there is a baseline that needs to be followed.”

Earlier, Makhdoom said that in 17th Amendment, Schedules 6 and 7 were provided. Schedule 6 said certain laws could not be changed without the sanction of the President. There was an embargo on the Parliament, while Schedule 7 enlisted the laws, which could be amended as per the procedure given in the constitution. He submitted that in the 18th Amendment both schedules were omitted. The embargo on the Parliament to amend has gone. The case was adjourned until today (Thursday).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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