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SC rejected NAB plea of adjourning proceedings of Hudaibiya Paper

12 December, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seeking to adjourn proceedings of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference involving money laundering of Rs 1.2 billion until the appointment of a new prosecutor general (PG).

A three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel told NAB’s special prosecutor Imranul Haq that it would hear the case on Tuesday as it had nothing do with the prosecutor general’s appointment, adding that the reason to adjourn the case was not substantial enough.

The court restrained the electronic media from discussing the merits and demerits of Hudaibiya case during live talk shows and directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to ensure implementation of the order. The court, however, allowed factual reporting on the case.

The judges noted that there was no ground for delaying the proceedings and asked NAB not to make a mockery of the court.

When NAB’s prosecutor told the court that the details of the case sought by the court had been submitted, the court asked that why NAB had failed to properly pursue the case since 2000.

The court asked the prosecutor that had the Panama Papers case bench of the apex court not made the observation (regarding reopening of the Hudaibiya case), would NAB have filed the appeal?

The court asked the prosecutor to narrate the circumstances which led to former premier Nawaz Sharif going into exile. Justice Isa noted that Sharif went to exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000 and the same year the Hudaibiya reference was filed against him, his brother Shehbaz Sharif and other family members before an accountability court.

The prosecutor stated that the case was first registered on March 27, 2000, and the accused returned to Pakistan on November 25, 2007.

The court warned the prosecutor of issuing a notice if he cited the Panama Paper’s case verdict instead of concentrating on his arguments in the Hudaibiya case and establishing that the former premier used his influence for quashing the NAB reference in Hudaibiya case.

The court asked the prosecutor to point out as to where corruption was made in the Hudaibiya case with the observation that the case is prima facie related to income tax. The prosecutor was asked to establish as to what criminality was made by Nawaz Sharif.

To a court query, the prosecutor stated that the accused nominated in the Hudaibiya reference were sent on exile on December 10, 2000, while the reference was filed on March 27, 2000. He said the Sharif family returned to Pakistan on November 25, 2007, whereas Nawaz Sharif took oath as prime minister on June 5, 2013. He stated that after Sharif became the prime minister, he influenced the process of filing an appeal against the Lahore High Court verdict of quashing the reference against him and his family.

When the court asked that why the matter of filing an appeal was kept in cold storage for such a long time, the prosecutor stated that at that time the accused was facing trial in plane hijacking case.

To a court query about the Attock fort matter, the counsel replied that it was converted into a sub jail. The court, however, asked under what law and why the accused was kept in the Attock fort.

The counsel, however, expressed his ignorance as to why Nawaz Sharif was kept in Attock fort and whether it was in accordance with the law or not.

“Go through the law that says that there will be an open trial if the accused is not a hardcore terrorist,” Justice Isa said, and sought details as to when the Attock fort was declared a sub jail.

He questioned as to how the accused managed to save himself from the trial when he was not a free man. “How NAB can say that the accused used delaying tactics for escaping the trial or used his influence,” Justice Isa noted.

The counsel stated that the accused was sent abroad on exile, thus the case was adjourned for an indefinite period. Justice Isa observed as to whether any concept of exile law existed.

The counsel stated that there was an agreement between the accused and the government. Justice Isa, however, questioned as to whether an accused can be sent abroad on exile during his trial. The counsel replied that the exile agreement was made with the consent of the accused. “If you are saying that General Musharraf facilitated the exile of the accused, then had you taken any action against the facilitator,” Justice Isa asked the prosecutor.

He also asked the prosecutor as to why NAB did not arrest the accused upon his return despite the fact that he was facing trial in plane hijacking case.

“There was a military general running the country then, then how the accused influenced the case,” Justice Qazi Isa asked, adding that the accused returned from exile in 2007 but until 2010, the NAB did nothing.

He said one military general was running the country while another was heading the NAB, and the NAB must have filed an application for re-opening of the case when the accused returned to the country.

The counsel then stated that the prosecutor general had filed an application for restoration of the case that was dismissed on December 17, 2008, for non-prosecution.

The counsel stated that the accused moved the high court against Hudaibiya reference and consequently a stay order was granted. Justice Isa interrupted saying that the high court did not grant stay on the application for the restoration of the reference but restrained the NAB from proceeding with the original reference.

Justice Isa questioned as to what the anti-graft body was doing when the accused filed an application in the high court after five years, challenging the reference.

He said the hearing in the reference was adjourned for indefinite period on August 21, 2008, for which an application was filed for the restoration and the court then fixed the hearing but from September 4, 2008, till November 12, 2008, no proceeding took place and later on November 12, the court dismissed the reference.

The prosecutor stated that on May 3, 2010, the NAB court held the signature of NAB chairman as mandatory for filing a reference, adding that during this period as there was no NAB chairman, hence application for restoration of the reference was filed late. The court, however, recalled that the court gave the order in May, while NAB chairman remained in office till June.

The prosecutor, however, said that there was an application pending in the Supreme Court against the NAB chairman.

Justice Isa, however, told the prosecutor that all happened before the respondent, the accused, came into power. “I am not attacking anyone but the five judges of the Supreme Court had talked about the Hudaibiya case,” Justice Isa said, adding that the Supreme Court had not said anywhere in the judgment that NAB should file an appeal. The prosecutor, however, said that Hudaibiya had direct link with the Panama case.

If the bench hearing Panama case had not made the observation pertaining to reopening of the Hudaibiya case, would NAB have filed the appeal against the judgment of Lahore High Court quashing the reference?” Justice Isa asked.

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