Now Supreme Court puzzled by forces’ exclusion from NAB ambit
ISLAMABAD: On Wednesday, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court questioned why Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, never raised a concern about the military’s exclusion from the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), despite the fact that some of the largest business entities in the nation were run by the armed forces.
Why, given that they were in charge of the biggest companies and had the biggest financial sheets, are the military forces exempt from the NAO? Justice Shah made a comment and inquired as to why the petitioner never raised a complaint of discrimination.
The former prime minister’s appeal against recent changes to the accountability statute was taken up by a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court, including Justice Shah.
According to Justice Shah, when a serving army officer operates a business, he may be held accountable for any crime and prosecuted under the law.
On behalf of the petitioner, Mr. Khan, senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, however, cited Section 5(n)(iv) of the amended NAO to argue that no exception was made by the law for army officers who were civilian employees of the armed forces or who currently hold or previously held a position in any public corporation, bank, financial institution, or other organisation that was established, controlled, or administered by or under the federal government or a provincial government.
The bench’s Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Umar Ata Bandial, stressed the need to strike a balance between a citizen’s fundamental rights and the public good. He added that after considering a few cases, he realised that when an individual or accused was cleared of corruption charges, society suffered.
The CJP noted that the court needed to comprehend how it had become challenging for the prosecution under the revised accountability law to prosecute those accused of engaging in corrupt practises as well as how it would cause suffering to people by infringing upon their rights.
CJP Bandial also highlighted a situation in which one of the defendants had been cleared of all charges, but had still benefited financially from benamidars, which were inherited assets, without naming any specific parties. As a result, he noted, the court was seeking for the discovery of concrete legal defects.
The legal representative contended that the enormous sums of money utilised to fund the investigations and compile the corruption references against the accused belonged to the public and shouldn’t be thrown away.
“Can the Supreme Court uphold this absurd law where less than Rs. 500 million will leave the purview of NAO but if the case concerns Rs. 500 million or more, it will be very difficult to prove?” He enquired.
So, if a law is unreasonable, should it be overturned? Judge Shah made a comment.
He claimed that people were getting the false idea that the NAO was the only law that dealt with corruption issues and that if someone made a bad mistake, they could just go home without being confronted. He emphasised that even while the perpetrator might not fall into the NAB’s trap, he could still be ensnared in another net.