The Lahore High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in a plea seeking to determine the jurisdiction of its chairman to reopen 19-year-old inquiries.
PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi had filed a petition in the high court, alleging that the anti-graft watchdog was an institution of political engineering and raised questions on its investigative authority.
In addition, the plea requested the court to declare the reopening of an almost two-decade-old case by the authority as illegal.
A two-member bench of the LHC heard the case today, where Speaker Punjab Assembly Pervez Elahi appeared before it.
The LHC subsequently issued a notice to the accountability watchdog for May 11.
In the petition, the seasoned politicians underlined that the courts have earlier ruled on the NAB’s role and erroneous methods of investigation.
“In the year 2000, the then chairman of the respondent bureau proceeded to authorize investigation against the petitioners on the allegations of misuse of authority, assets beyond means and wilful default under the National Accountability Ordinance 1999,” they stated in three identical petitions filed through Advocate Amjad Pervez.
The petitioners, who are an important ally to the government, argued that the establishment of the NAB, its credibility, partiality and use for political engineering has been a matter of heated debate not only by all political parties but also by human rights organizations and intelligentsia both at the national and international level.
They said the conduct of the bureau and the manner in which its officials use authority has also been judicially noticed by the superior courts of the country in a number of cases.
The petitioners pleaded that all the three investigations were recommended for closure by the investigating officers and regional board of the NAB during 2017 and 2018 when the government of their political rivals was in place.
However, they submitted the chairman of the NAB approved in 2019 bifurcation of investigations against them about the allegations of assets beyond means.
They argued that the so-called order for the bifurcation of the investigation after a lapse of about 20 years was for a purpose other than bona fide and the same was prompted by mala fide intentions to contain and cage their (petitioners) role and their party in the political arena.
They claimed that not a single piece of evidence or material was available before the then chairman of the bureau to form an opinion in terms of Section 18(c) of the NAO 1999 to pass an order for authorization of the investigation.
The petitioners argued that the entire process from commencing and conducting the investigation is in violation of mandatory provisions of the ordinance. Therefore, they pleaded, all actions taken by the respondent bureau are illegal, without lawful authority and void ab initio.