Accountability courts short of judges as NAB approves references against ex-PM, family

ISLAMABAD: A Rawalpindi accountability judge will be retiring in a few days while another judge of the Islamabad accountability court is being repatriated to the Lahore High Court (LHC) at a time when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is filing four references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.

There are two accountability court judges in Islamabad: Nisar Baig and Mohammad Bashir. Mr Baig is being repatriated to his parent department, the LHC.

In Rawalpindi, Raja Akhlaq Ahmed is retiring as he will attain superannuation at the end of this month, leaving one accountability judge – Khalid Mehmood Ranjha – in Rawalpindi.

As far as the workload is concerned, there are over 60 cases pending before Islamabad’s accountability courts. A senior official from NAB prosecution said there are less than 10 cases pending before the two accountability courts in Rawalpindi.

The availability of judges and the workload in the accountability courts caused confusion within NAB regarding where to file references against Mr Sharif.

The bureau is filing four references, under the direction of the Supreme Court, within a deadline that is scheduled to lapse on Friday with the approval of the executive board meeting.

On July 28, the SC had directed NAB to file four references against Mr Sharif and his children: Hussain, Hassan and Maryam Nawaz, as well as his son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, within six weeks of “the date of this judgement”. The court directed the bureau “to prepare and file [references] before the Accountability Court, Rawalpindi/Islamabad”.

In light of the workload and availability of judges, some NAB prosecution officials were of the view that the cases should be filed in Rawalpindi, but a senior official said references against the Sharifs may be filed in the Islamabad accountability court before Friday prayers.

Regarding the availability of judges, sources in the law ministry said this was because of a sudden change of mind within the LHC administration, and accountability court judges could not be appointed before time.

The sources said the process of posting two judges to the Rawalpindi and Islamabad accountability courts was initiated well before the July 28 verdict, when the LHC forwarded the names of two judges – Chaudhry Abdul Qayyum and Nisar Ahmed – for accountability judges of Islamabad and Rawalpindi with effect from Oct 1.

The law ministry subsequently processed the case and received approval from the prime minister and president on Aug 8, the sources said.

However, after the SC verdict, the LHC administration informed the law ministry that the nominations of Mr Qayyum and Mr Ahmed had been withdrawn, and forwarded the names of Syed Pervez Ali Shah and Shakil Ahmed for the posts.

According to the sources, the process of their appointments is ongoing.

When contacted, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Law and Justice Barrister Zafarullah Khan confirmed that the appointments of accountability judges for the twin cities were in process. He expressed the hope that the process would be completed soon and that the new appointments would be notified after approval from the competent authority soon.

Source: Dawn

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