KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to continue its inquiries against provincial assembly members and bureaucrats.
Opposition parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)–Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League–Functional (PML-F), and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), jointly filed a petition in SHC challenging the controversial National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 Repeal Bill, 2017 (now Act) recently enacted by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led provincial government.
The law strips away NAB’s powers to take action against provincial government officials in Sindh.
A two-member bench, led by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh, also ordered the Sindh advocate general to provide lists of names of provincial assembly members who voted for the bill and those under inquiry by NAB.
The court directed the anti-graft body to continue its investigations till the final judgment is announced by the court but added that any final report in the investigation should not be presented.
NAB is presently probing into corruption charges against over 60 bureaucrats and politicians including Law Minister Zia-ul-Hassan Lanjar, MPA Faqir Dad Khoso, Sharmila Farooqi, Sharjeel Memon, former chief secretary Siddiq Memon, Aijaz Chaudhry, former Member of Board of Revenue Shazar Shamoon, Secretary Badar Jameel, Ali Ahmed Lond, Managing Director Water Board Hashim Raza Zaidi, former Education Minister Pir Mazhar ul Haq, MNA Mir Munawar Talpur, MPA Ali Mardan Shah, former administrator Karachi Rauf Akhter, and Former Chairman Inter Board Anwar Zai.
The federal body filed over a hundred references in the past year.
Arguing over the bill, the Sindh advocate general remarked that under the 18th Amendment, the provincial assembly had powers to pass such a bill.
Responding to this, the SHC chief justice remarked that this means the federal anti-corruption courts, anti-terrorism courts and anti-narcotics courts should be shut down then.
The case was then adjourned until August 22.
Speaking to the media, PPP MPA Saeed Ghani questioned the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s decision to set up a parallel Ehtesab Commission in the province, saying how can they [PTI] be against a similar move in Sindh.
In their petition, the opposition parties’ leaders – MQM-Pakistan Convener Dr Farooq Sattar, PML-F MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, and others – made the provincial chief secretary, Sindh Assembly secretary, home and law secretaries, NAB director-general and six accountability courts in the province as respondents.
The petitioners alleged that the PPP was engaged in corruption in the province and that the party’s leadership and bureaucrats serving under them were facing a number of investigations under the NAB ordinance. The opposition leaders argued that many more corruption cases could be filed in the future due to rampant corruption in Sindh.
The petition states that PPP legislators bypassed the prescribed procedures to introduce and pass the NAO 1999 Repeal Bill, 2017 in the assembly, without permitting any discussion or debate by opposition members.
Opposition leaders requested the SHC to annul the act and ensure that the new law does not override or eclipse the inquiries launched or filed under the NAB ordinance.
The SHC was pleaded to permanently, or while the petition is pending, restrain the respondents from transferring any inquiry, investigation, proceedings or cases under the NAB ordinance to any other authority under the new law.
On Tuesday, Former Sindh Inspector General of Police Ghulam Haider Jamali filed a petition to halt a corruption reference against him in an accountability court arguing that he couldn’t be tried in a NAB court after the Sindh Assembly enacted the NAO 1999 Repeal Act, 2017.