SC stops govt from any interference in prosecution process of the NAB & FIA

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ISLAMABAD: Taking up the suo moto case on apprehensions that people at the helm of affairs might undermine criminal justice, the Supreme Court on Thursday barred the government from making new appointments as well as transferring and postings officers of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) who are investigating high-profile cases in the country.
On the recommendation of a judge of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial a day earlier took suo moto notice over ‘perceived interference’ in the prosecution department and formed a five-member larger bench in the matter.
Heading the five-member larger bench in the case on Thursday, the chief justice issued notices to the FIA director general, NAB chairman and interior secretary. The bench also issued directives to the concerned parties to give an explanation as to why there was “interference” in criminal cases, and stopped the NAB and FIA from withdrawing cases till further orders. Notices have also been served on all the provincial prosecutor generals and advocate generals in the matter.
The top court has also sought explanation from the FIA and the NAB for the transfer/posting of officials in the prosecution and investigation wing. The bench asked both the institutions to submit details pertaining to the past six months record about transfer/posting of officials in FIA and NAB.
The court also asked to be informed about the steps being taken to protect the record of criminal cases and directed for the record of high-profile cases to be checked and sealed. Responding to the objection of Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf over the directives, the chief justice plainly said the record of ongoing cases would not be sealed except that of the prosecution.
During the hearing, the chief justice observed that there should be “no interference in the prosecution process or the prosecution wing”, adding that the FIA’s former director Mohammad Rizwan, who was probing the money laundering charges against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz, was also transferred and later he died of a heart attack.
“We are concerned over these developments,” the CJP said. Justice Bandial also remarked that according to news reports, “thousands” of people benefitted after their names were removed from the no-fly list.
“We have been seeing such news reports for the past one month. This has an effect on the rule of law,” the CJP said, adding that it was the court’s responsibility to maintain peace and trust in society under the constitution. The CJP also stated that the suo motu was not meant to embarrass or hold anyone responsible, “it is meant to protect the criminal justice system and the rule of law.”
Citing media reports relating to the new ECL policy, the chief justice observed a change in the policy about removal of names from the exit-control list (ECL) will benefit as many as 3,000 people. The chief justice asked the attorney general for Pakistan to submit details of the new policy and its beneficiaries.
“The court wants to know about the changes in the policy of ECL and how the people whose names are there on the list will be benefitted,” he said.
The chief justice expressed that the court is not afraid of criticism and does not need praise, saying the court is always intended to dispense justice to the people. While mentioning strong social media cells of the political parties, the chief justice said that the court has been observing it silently. However, the bench made it clear that nobody would be allowed to play with the judicial system. Later, the bench adjourned the hearing of the case till May 27.
Meanwhile, terming the directives “historic and golden”, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid alleged that incumbent Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah himself removed his and other people’s names from the ECL without the approval of the cabinet.
“They have 50 years of experience about giving themselves NRO,” said Rashid. The former interior minister accused the ruling PML-N of changing the files of the cases against its leadership and appointing its workers to the prosecuting department. All those officers working on the cases against the Sharif family have been removed, he added.
Rashid further informed that as soon as Shahbaz Sharif assumed the charge of PM’s Office, DG FIA Sanaullah Abbasi was removed and the prosecutor showed disinterest in cases against the family in the court. He alleged that FIA’s whole record had been shifted to two houses in Lahore’s Model Town. “This week is very important as major decisions will be made during the next seven days,” said the ex-interior minister. – TLTP