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Monday, April 15, 2024

SC questions the delay in appointment of accountability court judge

News Desk |

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken suo moto notice of the delay in the reappointment of the accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir. Apex court also extended the deadline of the corruption cases against Sharif family by two months in response to Muhammad Bashir’s letter to extend the date of the cases by two months.

Honorable Judge Muhammad Bashir is hearing the corruption references against the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He is set to retire on March 12 which is a day before the SC deadline expires, but the government is apparently delaying his reappointment to linger on the case against Nawaz.

Read more: Will Judge Muhammad Bashir be re-appointed in Accountability Court-1?

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar headed a three-member bench and heard an application pertaining to the reappointment of the accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir.

Ministry of Law and Justice has no role in it but to forward the nominations to the president for appointment.

It was already expected that Ministry may delay the process and take up few weeks to send a summary to the president.

This is why CJP has responded swiftly and summoned law secretary to report progress made in the reappointment.

Over 50 prosecution witnesses in the four references, and further 40 witnesses in additional references have delayed the cases.

President of Pakistan appoints the judge under the procedure defined in the NAB Ordinance, in which ‘the chief justice of the relevant HC sends nominations for the accountability court judges to the Ministry of Law and Justice which forwards the summary to the prime minister to forward to the president for appointment’.

The accountability court will certainly miss the 6-month deadline, but, if President accepts the IHC nomination and Ministry of Law and Justice does not play delaying tactics, Judge Muhammad Bashir will be the best person to announce verdict in this case.

Read More: Accountability Court dismissed Sharif’s plea for clubbing references: Why?

On Tuesday, Judge Muhammad Bashir had sent a letter to SC to extend time period for the ongoing trials in the accountability court as it was not possible to conclude them within the 6-month restriction imposed by the court.  The deadline was expected to finish on March 13 but now a special bench of the SC headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, heard the plea today and extended the date by two-months.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed the references on September 7, 2017, which were required to be completed on March 6, 2018. In the light of new directives, cases must be completed by May 6.

However, due to additional references in Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment cases filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), over 50 prosecution witnesses in the four references, and further 40 witnesses in additional references have delayed the cases.

IHC Chief Justice requested reappointment of Judge Bashir

Earlier, Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC) Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi had written a letter to law ministry in which it said, Islamabad is already facing a shortage of judges and 13-judges have been brought on deportation to Islamabad.

Moreover, there is no judge currently working in accountability court 2 and this position needs to be filled. The letter also requested to grant fresh appointment to judge Muhammad Bashir in terms of the NAB ordinance 1999 because high profile cases are still to be decided, which requires more time.

The delaying tactics are nothing new neither in Pakistan’s justice system nor among political elite.

Read more: Islamabad High Court sets precedence asks to investigate Musharraf for corruption

The fact of the matter is that Nawaz is trying to emulate Benazir’s delaying tactics in the corruption charges against her and Asif Ali Zardari in 1998. Nawaz wants a situation where the court, prosecution or the political environment is acquiescent to their needs and wants. Nawaz wants a similar respite, and the house of Nawaz and his close aides are building a case in public which appears as if they are targeted at someone’s behest, and prosecution is taking place in undue haste.

This is why apex court opted to appoint the supervisory judge- Ijaz ul Ahsan to conclude the trial within six months?

The timely action of Apex court may prove decisive in ensuring that judge Muhammad Bashir is retained in accountability court. Analysts believe that he is the only session judge in Islamabad with expertise in dealing with NAB cases. Since chief justice IHC was familiar with the situation that is why he opted to ask for the fresh appointment of the same judge which is apparently endorsed by CJP.