Supreme Court strikes down NAB amendments

On Friday, the Supreme Court (SC) delivered its verdict on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s challenge to the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 by the previous government. The SC, with a majority of 2 to 1, ruled that Imran Khan’s plea against the NAB law amendments was valid.

This decision had a significant impact, as it resulted in the reinstatement of all National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases and inquiries, regardless of their value, which were previously closed due to these amendments. The Supreme Court also nullified sections related to the definitions of “be-nami” and “assets beyond means,” as well as the section that shifted the burden of proof onto the prosecution.

The special bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and including Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, heard the case. The bench exhibited a clear divide in its stance during the proceedings. Justice Shah consistently questioned the validity of the petition, while CJP Bandial and Justice Ahsan expressed criticism of certain amendments made by the Pakistan Democratic Movement government to the NAB law.

The federal government was represented by Makhdoom Ali Khan, while Khawaja Haris represented Imran Khan.

This decision, which came just before Chief Justice Bandial’s retirement, was expected to have significant implications for national politics.

During the hearings, the Supreme Court had instructed Attorney General of Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan to submit a written submission supporting the amendments, which he did on September 10.

In his submission, the Attorney General argued that the NAO 1999, which governs the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), should not apply to judges of superior courts and armed forces personnel.

He stated that the Constitution of Pakistan already provides a comprehensive mechanism for the accountability of the superior judiciary through the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), composed of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, two senior most Supreme Court justices, and two senior most Chief Justices of high courts.

Awan referenced the Khan Asfandyar Wali v Federation of Pakistan case, where the Supreme Court noted that judges of superior courts are not immune from accountability and can be held accountable under Article 209 of the Constitution.

The Attorney General also pointed out that the exclusion of armed forces members from NAB’s purview was considered in the Khan Asfandyar Wali case and clarified that this exclusion did not imply immunity from accountability.

Moreover, Awan raised doubts about the validity of the former prime minister’s petition, emphasizing that while the petitioner argued for higher standards of accountability for elected representatives, he himself had abandoned his parliamentary duties, leaving a majority of the country unrepresented in the National Assembly, which he deemed a breach of trust.

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