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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Is NAB losing its credibility?

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has already noted that “all civilized societies recognize the principle that punishment comes only after conviction, and the presumption of innocence subsist with the accused, till he is handed down the punishment after trial”. Is NAB losing its credibility?

The Sindh High Court (SHC) extended on Thursday interim bail granted to former Sindh minister Jam Khan Shoro and others until Feb 4 in a case related to illegal allotment of state land and assets beyond means. As a two-judge bench of the SHC resumed hearing, the accused appeared before it.

During the hearing, a NAB prosecutor requested the court to grant the bureau some more time to complete its inquiry against the accused. Granting his request, the court directed the corruption watchdog to file a reference in the case at the earliest.

Former provincial minister Jam Khan Shoro is facing charges of accumulating assets beyond known sources of his income and is also accused of illegally allotting state land for a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station in Hyderabad’s area of Qasimabad.

According to the NAB, illegal allotment of land cost the national exchequer a sum of Rs180 million. In the detailed, 87-page ruling, penned by Justice Maqbool Baqar, the court highlighted severe lapses in the NAB’s due process and legal procedure, the definition, the purpose of bail due processes in criminal cases. This judgment is the reason behind demanding to abolish the NAB.

The NAB has recently been criticized for its inability to file references or effectively furnish them before a law court. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has also slammed the NAB for unduly disrespecting politicians and filing fake cases.

The court noted about the NAB that its “conduct throughout this case is a clear manifestation of their utter disregard for the law, fair play, equity, and propriety.”

“In this country, it would be quite contrary to the concept of personal liberty enshrined in the Constitution that any person should be punished in respect of any matter, upon which, he has not been convicted or that in any circumstances, he should be deprived of his liberty upon only the belief that he will tamper with the witnesses if left at liberty, save in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Justice Baqar further underlined that “all civilized societies recognize the principle that punishment comes only after conviction, and the presumption of innocence subsist with the accused, till he is handed down the punishment after trial.” “It hardly needs any reiteration that the detention either pre-trial or during trial causes great hardship,” the judgment added.

Read More: Will, the NAB chairman, get an extension in service?

According to the judge, it was unfortunate that “even after 72 years since the creation of our country, and despite 47 years since the Constitution’s adoption, we have not been able to realize the spirit and essence of the ideals set out therein”.

“Nobody can dictate NAB.”

In 2019, Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal, Chairman NAB, clarifies that the NAB law was not black. “Many Socrates and Platos have come to life who have never read the NAB law but still criticize and call it a black law,” said the NAB chairman.

While addressing the gathering, the chairman categorically rejected what he termed as “malicious propaganda” against the watchdog while vowing to continue work according to Pakistan’s Constitution.

The NAB chairman said, “If NAB were a black law, the Supreme Court would have abolished it.” “This is a black law for those who are still involved in stealing,” the chairman stressed.

He said that he has always welcomed criticism, but it should be logical and conceivable. The NAB chairman warned that the accountability watchdog would act against those taking part in corruption. “If there weren’t corruption, Pakistan would not need to take loans.”

Justice (Retd) Iqbal further said no person could dictate NAB, adding propaganda against the bureau. “The time when corruption was overlooked has passed,” the NAB chairman warned. “If anyone commits corruption, then he/she will have to confront NAB.”

Read More: Ramzan sugar mills case: NAB court summons Shehbaz, Hamza.

Experts believe that the government should not abolish the NAB; rather, it needs to be thoroughly reformed to make it effective and in line with the basic values as prescribed in Pakistan’s constitution.