Pakistan’s Supreme Court heard a case on Thursday relating to amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and the lack of clarity in the revised law. In a petition filed by Imran Khan, Chairman of the PTI, against the changes implemented by the incumbent government, a three-member bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, reviewed the matter.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was not allowed to look into corruption cases involving less than Rs 500 million, and there was a cap on suspicious financial transactions, thanks to changes to the accountability laws that were approved by the federal cabinet last July. The modifications also gave the bureau the authority to release or acquit the accused at any time during the course of the investigation and required it to disclose the reasons for an arrest at the time of the arrest.
Makhdoom Ali Khan, a federal government attorney, claimed during the hearing that the NAB had not given the court a thorough report on the cases that accountability courts had returned. Khan asked the Supreme Court to ask the NAB for a list of the references that had been provided and to clarify how many political figures were among the 41 people who were exonerated as a result of the NAO amendments.
The Chief Justice remarked that neither the NAB nor any institution had been set up specifically for that purpose, nor did they know the total amount associated with these cases or where the cases returned by the accountability courts would go. Additionally, the NAB did not designate a custodian for the returned references.
The hearing was postponed by the Supreme Court for two weeks. The government’s attorney responded that no one had been exonerated under the NAB Act 2022 as of yet and that the Public Accounts Committee had repeatedly asked about what happened to the money that was recovered.
The NAB law had previously been applied with malice, according to the Chief Justice, and the NAB chairman had resigned despite being a highly regarded police officer. He further demonstrated how everyone appeared to have benefited from the NAB law by giving the example of a person who had been imprisoned despite returning the money..
As a result of the hearing, the NAB was unable to provide comprehensive reports due to the lack of clarity in the new law. It will take two weeks for the Supreme Court to decide how these issues will be addressed.