NEWS & VIEWS
FORMER prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband retired Captain Mohammad Safdar were indicted by an accountability court in Islamabad on Thursday in connection with a reference pertaining to the Avenfield flats filed against them by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Nawaz Sharif has also been indicted in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment references, and will be indicted in Flagship Investment reference on Friday. Earlier, the court had rejected three applications filed by the trio requesting suspension of the indictment. Nawaz Sharif was represented by pleader Zafir Khan; perhaps he resorted to proxy so that he may not be declared absconder. All the accused pleaded not guilty. Maryam Nawaz, while talking to reporters after leaving the accountability court, said “one day there would be accountability of the accountability process her family is going through.”
Commenting on indictment of PMl-N leaders, Rana Sanaullah, Punjab’s Law minister and other leaders said that haste in the proceedings could bury the justice. Addressing 2nd Punjab Women Judges Conference in Lahore, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had in a different perspective said: “The case verdicts should be free from ambiguity. No judge can announce a verdict without fulfilling the legal requirements. That providing hasty decisions is equal to burying justice.” One has to agree with the CJP that in order to meet the demands of justice the judges have to be extra careful while delivering verdicts because decisions made in haste compromise the principles of justice. But there wasn’t even a remote reference to ongoing case against Nawaz Sharif and family members. However, another maxim should also be kept in mind i.e. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, while addressing the ceremony, said that 1.2 million cases were pending in the courts across Punjab, which is reflective of the fact that there have been delays in dispensation of justice. Of course, there are some genuine reasons for the delays and judiciary is not to blame. For one, it is shortage of judges; and despite the demand of the judiciary no action has been taken, hence the problem still persists. Secondly, lawyers representing the accused often use delaying tactics. Take the cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and four family members, who have adopted a strategy not to appear in the court at one time so that charges could not be framed. But courts found the solution in the law, and the court has separated the cases of Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz who are not inclined to appear before the court.
Anyhow, Nawaz Sharif had appeared in the NAB court, and could not be indicted because other accused were not present. Then Maryam Nawaz and Captain (retired) came back to Pakistan and appeared before the court. In fact the issue of accountability of former prime minister Nawaz sharif dates back to April 2016 when government and opposition neither agreed on formation of judicial commission under new law and nor over the terms of reference. Of course, justice should not only be done, but it should seem to have been done. However, the courts have given enough time for investigating the cases and then sending them to accountability court. In editorial of this esteemed daily the other day, leader writer pointed out: “In the not distant past, we saw the apex court exonerating a murder convict after his death. These are the flaws or shortcomings that needed to be removed by the judiciary in cooperation with the Executive with a view to ensuring timely and prompt justice.”
True, justice delayed is justice denied; but it is equally true that justice hurried is justice buried, as pointed out by the CJP. Anyhow, a just reconciliation of these two maxims must be left to the good judgment of the judges in criminal trials. Since there is acute shortage of judges, Pakistan should consider adopting the US pattern of removing the existing retirement age restrictions. The fact that several Supreme Court judges are reappointed in various capacities after retirement only reinforces faith in their capacity to discharge judicial functions even after the date of retirement. Appointment of Justice (R) Javed Iqbal as Chairman of NAB is a case in point. Indeed, there is need for police reforms and training of the investigation officers and prosecutors so that they can play their role. Finally, the nexus between the police and politicians has to be broken, as police has become tool in the hands of politicians to take on their opponents.
One could criticize former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry for his judicial activism, but in 2009 he had taken measures for quick dispensation of justice and elimination of corruption. In the judicial policy, registration of criminal cases against corrupt judges was also made possible, which was another step without any parallel in the past. Addressing a press conference at Supreme Court Lahore Registry, the then registrar Dr. Faqir Hussain had announced the much-awaited National Judicial Policy applicable from 1st June 2009. He had said: “Within one year backlog of 1704871 cases pending at all levels of judicial hierarchy throughout country would be disposed of. As regards new cases, he said they would also be decided in one-year time from the date of their filing, while in Balochistan six months time would be sufficient to end backlog of old cases and to dispose of new cases. Is any new policy is forthcoming?
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
NEWS & VIEWS