The accountability court in Islamabad has summoned Farzana Raja along with eighteen accused on September 17, in a case related to alleged corruption in Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).
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The former BISP chairperson Farzana Raja skipped today’s hearing owing to her medical condition. The hearing was presided over by AC Judge Muhammad Bashir. “My client is unable to appear before the court and wants to join proceedings via video link due to her health issues”, Raja’s lawyer said before the court.
To this, the judge remarked the court will decide if about later after seeing her medical reports. Further hearing of the case has been adjourned till September 17. Farzana Raja and other accused have been directed to ensure their appearance before the court.
NAB Rawalpindi Bureau filed the reference against Farzana Raja and other accused. Ms. Raja remained chairperson of the BISP from year 2008 to 2013 during the tenure of the Pakistan People’s Party government.
The reference comprised of 32 volumes has been sent to the Registrar Office for scrutiny, in which overall 19 persons have been made the party.
The Executive Board of NAB had approved the filing of reference against former chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme Ms Farzana Raja and others in a meeting in December last year.
Politically motivated references?
The NAB has been facing relentless criticism for filing politically motivated references against the political opponents of the government. The former Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said on 13th December 2018 that the NAB ordinance was against the Pakistani constitution, Islamic values, and our human rights commitments. “It was drawn up by a dictator and it should end”. The former Prime Minister made these statements while speaking to Doctor Moeed Pirzada on his prime-time show “Live with Moeed Pirzada” on GNN.
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 and purpose of bail, and due processes in criminal cases. This judgment is the reason behind demanding to abolish the NAB.
The court noted that the NAB that its “conduct throughout this case is a clear manifestation of their utter disregard for the law, fair play, equity, and propriety”.
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.
According to the judge, it was unfortunate that “even after 72 years since the creation of our country, and despite 47 years since the adoption of the Constitution, we have not been able to realize the spirit and essence of the ideals set out therein”.