KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday was informed that as many as 15 politicians in Sindh — a former caretaker chief minister, former Karachi mayor, current and former provincial ministers — are among over 1,500 persons facing proceedings by the National Accountability Bureau for their alleged involvement in corruption.
Headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Sheikh, a two-judge bench was hearing a set of constitutional petitions of three opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf — social welfare organisation Pasban and two civil rights campaigners against a new provincial law that repealed the applicability of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), better known as NAB law, in the province.
NAB on the court’s order submitted a detailed list of former and sitting members of Sindh Assembly facing NAB proceedings. They were Gian Chand Israni, Ghulam Gadir Palijo, Dost Muhammad, Muhammad Ali Malkani, Ejaz Shah Shirazi, Rauf Siddiqui, Adil Siddique, former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal, Nawab Taimoor Talpur, Law Minister Zia-ul-Hasan Lanjar, Abdul Sattar Rajpar, Haji Abdul Rauf Khoso, Nasrullah Baloch, Dr Asim Hussian, Sharjeel Inam Memon.
A list of over 800 provincial government’s former and current officials who were being investigated by NAB was also filed in court. Prominent among them are retired justice and former caretaker Sindh CM Zahid Kurban Alvi, former chief of the Sindh Building Control Authority Manzoor Qadir Kaka.
While NAB also asked the SHC to strike down the provincial law, the Sindh government requested the court to review its earlier order that allowed the country’s top anti-graft institution to continue with the pending inquiries and investigation in the province.
According to the petitioners, the NAO 1999 Sindh Repeal Act, 2017 is an attempt by the PPP to protect its corruption. They claimed that the law was against the basic scheme of the Constitution.
Defending the NAO, NAB in its comments stated that the Supreme Court in Asfandyar Wali Case (PLD 2001 SC 607) had held that “the NAB ordinance has been competently promulgated and is neither ultra vires the Constitution nor does it invade the provincial autonomy in any manner”.
NAB submitted that Article 143 of the Constitution was very much clear about applicability of the laws enacted by parliament and the provincial assembly.
The Article reads: “..if any provision of an Act of Provincial Assembly is repugnant to any provision of an Act of Parliament, which Parliament is competent to enact, then the Act of Parliament, whether passed before or after the Act of the Provincial Assembly, shall prevail and the Act of Provincial Assembly shall, to the extent of repugnancy, be void”.
Besides, NAB said, Article 142 (c) gave ample powers to parliament to enact legislation with respect to the criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence.
It said that the NAO was distinct from the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 and the FIA Act, 1947 in which there was no mechanism of recovery of swindled money. “But the provisions of NAO provide categorically a mechanism to recover the amount through Voluntary Return (VR) and Plea Bargain (PB).”
The Sindh advocate general also filed an application asking the court to review its order that directed NAB to continue with the pending inquiries and investigations.
The two-judge bench issued notices to the petitioners and NAB on the provincial government’s application and put off the hearing to Sept 12.
Meanwhile, the court ordered that the NAB could continue its operation in the province till next date of hearing.
The AG also filed para-wise comments and preliminary objections to the matter.
He also questioned the jurisdiction of the SHC to proceed with the matter and submitted that the competency of lawmakers to legislate on a provincial or federal subject was a matter between federation and the provinces and the jurisdiction of this court was barred under Article 184 of the Constitution.
The AG said that the matter fell under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 184.
Moreover, he argued, the provincial assembly proceedings had immunity under Article 69 and 127 of the Constitution.