ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan has asked Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa to uphold the principle of unbiasedness and impartiality and it would be in the interest of justice not to hear cases involving him.

The founder Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) stated that in light of the Supreme Court’s judgment in “Action against Distribution of Development Funds to MNAs/ MPAs by Prime Minister” (PLD 2021 SC 446), the incumbent CJP Qazi Faez not to hear cases involving him.

Imran Khan, who is currently incarcerated in Central Jail, Rawalpindi, on Wednesday, filed written submissions in intra-court appeals (ICAs), which have challenged the SC’s judgment dated 15 September 2023, wherein, a three-member bench by majority verdict declared most provisions of the amendments made to the NAB Ordinance as unconstitutional. He prayed to the court to dismiss the appeals.

He had initially challenged amendments made to the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999, invoking the jurisdiction of the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

He stated that abolishing the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) has paved the way for future money laundering activities. Previously, if someone had assets in foreign countries, information could be obtained through MLA. Now, this has become impossible, which is a significant setback.

“Previously, the onus was on the individual to prove that their wealth matched their source of income. NAB could question them, as in the Avenfield case. Under the new law, NAB must prove that money was gained through corruption. The sources of income for public office holders are well-known, and if any amount appears in the name of their family or employees, they will not be asked to prove its origin.

He said that no investigations were conducted on the Dubai Leaks which revealed offshore properties of various public office holders and those who are paid by the public exchequer. Mohsin Naqvi, the current interior minister, should demonstrate how he earned the money to purchase property in Dubai and by what means he sent it abroad (whether it was through money laundering or another method), he said.

The properties of Nawaz Sharif, the Zardari family, Rao Anwaar, and several former generals have also been exposed. The NAB or FIA should have immediately conducted inquiries into these cases but NAB is not doing so because they have been directed to work specifically against me, he said.

“A corruption-free Pakistan will attract investment, improve our economy, and uplift the standard of living for all. These amendments are not mere legal adjustments; they are calculated moves to protect the corrupt and to weaken our institutions.” They threaten the very fabric of justice and democracy in our nation and must be struck down. The Supreme Court must not, with respect, turn a blind eye to the facts apparent to all and sundry, he said.

Imran mentioned that in the last proceeding, Justice Athar Minallah, a member of five-judge bench, stated that “the NAB amendments would benefit me personally, as well, but my response was clear: this is not about personal gain but the greater good of our country and millions of Pakistanis who place their faith in a system that should serve them.”

He maintained that the focus must always be on the collective benefit of the nation, rather than individual advantages. “Throughout my political career, I have consistently taken a stand against corruption, even at great personal risk and sacrifice, including my current imprisonment.”

If the NAB is abusing its authority and powers, as it did in the Toshakhana case, then the NAB Ordinance should be reformed to prevent such abuses. It is essential to ensure that no personnel of NAB, including the chairman, can misuse their powers. “The most glaring example of this abuse is that the NAB case against me is that a necklace worth Rs1.8 Crore was falsely declared as being worth Rs3.18 billion, leading to an unjust case being filed. This kind of manipulation must be stopped to uphold justice.”

The amendments to NAB laws were made with the sole intention of ending cases against those involved in corruption. These individuals strategically altered the law to ensure their own cases would be dismissed. The amendments not only terminate their cases but also significantly hinder the prosecution of white-collar crimes in the future. This undermines the very foundation of justice and allows corruption to flourish unchecked.

The amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 represent an unprecedented and egregious example of legislative manipulation. There is no parallel anywhere in the world, not even in banana republics, where laws have been crafted specifically to absolve corrupt individuals of their wrongdoings. Those engaged in corrupt practices have exploited these person-specific amendments to shield their ill-gotten assets, using parliament as a tool for personal gain, he said.

Imran stated that while the Parliament has the authority to enact any law, it must do so within the bounds of the Constitution. “No legislation should contradict the spirit of the Constitution and justice, especially when it comes to laws addressing money laundering and other crimes. Such laws must be crafted with the highest degree of integrity, ensuring that no loopholes exist for those who have plundered the nation’s wealth.” Lawmakers hold their power as a trust bestowed upon them by the people and they cannot betray this trust for personal or political gain. It is imperative that our legislative process does not provide sanctuary for those who have looted the nation’s resources. Laws must protect the interests of the people, not the corrupt elite who exploit their positions of power for personal gain, he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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