Islamabad: Pakistan’s accountability watchdog has decided in principle to revive corruption charges against prominent political figures, including ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari after the Supreme Court scrapped the recent amendments to anti-graft laws.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted a record of graft cases to accountability the courts, asking them to reopen corruption cases involving amounts less than Rs 500 million, the Dawn newspaper reported Thursday.
Last week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court scrapped the recent amendments to the country’s anti-graft laws, restoring corruption cases against public office holders, including former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-premiers Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Yusuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
The apex court was announcing its reserved decision on jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s plea filed last year, challenging the amendments made to the accountability laws by the then government led by former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Among other things, the amendments limited the jurisdiction of the NAB to cases involving over Rs 500 million.
According to the report, the accountability watchdog wrote to the Federal Investigation Agency, anti-corruption departments in all provinces, banking courts, and the police, asking them to return all cases referred to these departments following the new amendments.
The decision to approach all courts and departments was made in a recent meeting presided over by NAB Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Nazir Ahmed Butt, the report said, quoting a source.
“The NAB headquarters has submitted an application before the registrar [of] accountability court Islamabad for [the] reopening of closed cases,” the source said, adding that all regional headquarters of the accountability watchdog have also approached regional accountability courts for the purpose.
The report said that the accountability courts had returned white-collar crime cases involving less than Rs 500 million to the watchdog after the new amendments.
The restoration of the old law has reopened cases of several politicians, including former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-premiers Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Yusuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Shaukat Aziz.
Nawaz Sharif, 73, who is set to return October 21, ending his self-exile in London, where the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo has lived since 2019, may see the restoration of a Toshakhana case.
In 2020, an accountability court declared him a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana vehicles reference. Zardari, 68, and Gilani, 71, are also accused in the same case.
In the case, the NAB accused Nawaz Sharif and Zardari of illegally retaining expensive vehicles gifted to them by various foreign countries and dignitaries instead of depositing them in the Toshakhana. According to the country’s top anti-corruption body, Gilani, during his tenure as Prime Minister, facilitated Zardari in retaining the vehicles.
Abbasi may face the LNG terminal case, while Ashraf will face the rental power corruption case.
Other bigwigs whose cases have been reopened are former federal ministers Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Kh Asif, Rana Sanaullah, ex-chief minister Punjab Hamza Shehbaz, Faryal Talpur, Syed Murad Ali Shah, Javed Latif, Akrum Durrani, Saleem Mandviwalla, according to the report.
They all benefited under the new law as the trial of those accused with less than Rs 500 million of alleged corruption was stopped.
The NAB is expected to submit the record of all cases to the court in the next two days in order to resume hearings, Economy.Pk news portal reported.
The coalition government had made several changes in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance of 1999 through the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act 2022, which Khan challenged in June last year.
These included reducing the term of the NAB chairman and prosecutor general to three years, limiting the anti-graft watchdog’s jurisdiction to cases involving over Rs 500 million, and transferring all pending inquiries, investigations, and trials to the relevant authorities.
After prolonged proceedings spanning over 53 hearings, the court concluded the case September 5 and reserved its judgment, which was declared just a day ahead of the retirement of then-Chief Justice Bandial.