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Over to accountability courts

Looking at the state of NAB courts where the legal battle for Sharifs will now be fought

Over to accountability courts

Nawaz Sharif may have fallen but whether he can be written off from Pakistan’s politics is still to be seen. The coming six months would be crucial to decide his and his three children’s fate.

On July 28, the Supreme Court ordered the removal of Nawaz Sharif linking his family to offshore wealth abroad that was revealed last year in the leaked Panama Papers. The disqualification by the apex court — for hiding a small amount he could have received from a company, FZE Capital, of his son established in the United Arab Emirates — has been called into question by some of country’s top legal minds.

As the legal advisors of the Sharifs are preparing a petition to seek review of the order by a full-court-bench of the SC, the legal battle will now be fought in the accountability courts where they would have to defend themselves. The defence might not be easy for the Sharifs. However, one thing which can go in favour of Nawaz Sharif is the dysfunctional National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The top corruption watchdog (NAB) is in the process of forming a combined investigation team. It would most probably include senior officers namely Muhammad Rizwan, Mehboob Alam, Muhammad Zubair, Amir Marth, Irfan Mangi and Isma Chaudhry. The appointment of new NAB chief and Prosecutor General and completion of tenures of judges of some accountability courts are some outstanding issues faced by NAB. It should be noted that Chairman NAB Qamar Zaman is completing his term in October while Prosecutor General Asim Qadeer Dar will complete the term in November this year.

The President of Pakistan in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly will appoint the new NAB Chairman for a non-extendable period of four years. The President in consultation with NAB Chief will appoint the new Prosecutor General as well. Some 144 officers are also facing inquiry after the SC formed a committee to probe irregularities in appointments in NAB. Around seven of total 22 NAB courts are dysfunctional.

Sharifs’ four references are being sent to Rawalpindi/Islamabad accountability courts. The judges of two accountability courts — Khalid Mehmood Ranjha and Raja Akhlaq Hussain — will complete their terms in the next two months while two courts are not operative. Nasir Iqbal, a grade-20 officer in the Inland Revenue Services, has been made NAB’s director general (Rawalpindi) region.

Many legal experts say evidences against all the accused have already been collected through the JIT and petitioners. But they could be summoned again as well.

The combined investigation team under section 27 and 21 of NAB Ordinance 1999 can get the assistance of all institutions in the country as well as abroad for collecting more evidences, according to investigators. The Supreme Court judge Ijazul Ahsan, who was also a part of Panama bench will oversee NAB courts’ proceedings. The NAB would file four references against Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz, Ishaq Dar and Captain (retd) Safdar by September 8, 2017.

The JIT headed by senior police officer Wajid Zia had recommended the re-opening of around sixteen cases against Sharifs. Three of these sixteen cases were registered during the 1994 and 2011 tenures of the PPP and 12 were prepared during the Musharraf regime. The case regarding the Sharif family’s four London apartments was also among the eight investigations started by the NAB in December 1999.

Many legal experts say evidences against all the accused have already been collected through the JIT and petitioners. But they could be summoned again as well. A careful examination of the material revealed that investigators would be also probing these entities of Sharifs under Section 9, 10 and 15 of the NAB Ordinance. With references of Azizia Steel Company and Hill Metal Establishment, some sixteen entities namely: (i) Flagship Investments Limited, Hartstone Properties Limited, Que Holdings Limited, Quint Eaton Place 2 Limited, Quint Saloane Limited, formerly Quint Eaton Place Limited, Quaint Limited, Flagship Securities Limited, Quint Gloucester Place Limited, Quint Paddington Limited (formerly Rivates Estates Limited), Flagship Developments Limited, Alanna Services Limited, Lankin SA (BVI), Chadron Inc, Ansbacher Inc, Coomber Inc and Capital FZE (Dubai) would also face investigation.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar would also face reference under the same law as the apex court observed that his income increased 91 times (from Rs.9.11 million to 831.70 million) within a short span of time.

The NAB on the directions of the SC shall within six weeks from July 28 file references before the accountability court, Rawalpindi/Islamabad on the basis of material collected and referred to by JIT in its report. And such other material as may be available with the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) and NAB having any nexus with the assets or which may subsequently become available including material that may come before it pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance requests sent by the JIT to different jurisdictions. 

Zahid Gishkori

The writer is Special Investigative Correspondent currently associated with Geo Television Network in Islamabad.

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