50 graft cases sent back by accountability courts

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In a major development, accountability courts have withdrawn major 50 corruption cases against suspects, including cases against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The relief has been provided in line with the amendments in the National Accountability Bureau laws.

Accordingly, cases against PM Shehbaz, former chief minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani have also been returned to NAB by the accountability courts.

The Ramzan Sugar Mill reference against PM Shehbaz and son Hamza is also among the cases sent back. NAB had filed this reference in 2019, alleging that the two suspects “fraudulently and dishonestly” caused a Rs213 million loss to the national exchequer.

Similarly, an accountability court returned six rental power plant references against the NA speaker back to NAB. The bureau had alleged that Ashraf misused his powers in rental power projects being the minister for Water and Power during the PPP government.

The Universal Services Fund reference against PPP Senator Yousuf Raza Gillani in which he was accused of misusing authority in an illegal publicity campaign, was also returned.

NAB references against Senator Saleem Mandviwala, former chief minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, and PPP Senator Rubina Khalid have also been returned.

Following the amendments of NAB rules, the references in Modaraba scams and company frauds have also been withdrawn from the accountability courts.

In August, the National Assembly passed the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022, which sought to exclude private transactions from the scope of NAB.

Under the amended bill, the pecuniary jurisdiction of NAB had been fixed to only take action against mega scandals. Furthermore, it had been proposed that supplementary references can only be filed with the permission of the court to expedite the proceedings of the court within one year.

As per the bill, the investigation officers shall not harass any person during the investigation or inquiry and they will confine their questions relevant to the investigation or inquiry or for extracting evidence.

Meanwhile, a court in Lahore on Saturday adjourned the hearing of a money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shehbaz until Monday, September 19, 2022, on account of public holiday in Lahore on the occasion of Urs of Hazrat Data Gunj Bux.

Both Shehbaz and Hamza have filed acquittal pleas in the Special Central Court while the latter has sought a reply from the Federal Investigation Agency on these pleas.

In their petitions, both father and son have argued that they were nominated in the challan without looking at the facts. “The truth is that no evidence has been found against us during the investigation so far,” they said, and prayed to the court to exonerate them from money laundering charges.

Similarly, the same court adjourned hearing of the petition filed by Suleman Shehbaz, son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, for unfreezing his companies’ bank accounts until Monday, September 19, 2022 on account of local holiday on the occasion of Urs of Hazrat Data Ganj Bux.

In his petition, Suleman has said that he is not the owner but a shareholder in these companies. “Secondly, I am a suspect in the FIA’s case, and not these companies,” he has said.

It has been further stated in the petition that due to freezing of these accounts, these firms are finding it difficult to pay salaries to their employees as well as bills; therefore, it is prayed to the court to order unfreezing of these accounts.

 

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