ISLAMABAD: In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled to reinstate corruption cases against public office holders. This decision comes after a long legal battle initiated by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, challenging amendments made to the country’s accountability laws during the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government.
A three-member bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and including Justices Mansoor Ali Shah and Ijazul Ahsan, delivered the majority verdict with a 2-1 decision in favor of restoring these graft cases. The bench had conducted over 50 hearings on Imran Khan’s petition against the amendments before reserving judgment on September 5.
CJP Bandial had promised a “short and sweet verdict” before his retirement, which is set for September 16.
In today’s majority decision, the Supreme Court struck down certain amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) of 1999. The verdict declared the petition against NAB amendments admissible, leading to the revival of all previously closed inquiries filed with the anti-graft body.
The court has directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to return all case records to relevant courts within seven days. Notably, the amendments that were struck down affected the rights of the public, as outlined in the Constitution.
This verdict holds significant implications, as it means that references against prominent political figures, including Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Raja Pervez Ashraf, will once again be taken up by accountability courts.
However, it’s worth mentioning that Justice Mansoor Ali Shah issued a dissenting note in the NAB amendments case.
The NAB amendments in question not only reduced the term of the NAB chairman and the bureau’s prosecutor general but also removed regulatory bodies from NAB’s jurisdiction. Additionally, these changes mandated a three-year term for judges of accountability courts and imposed a one-year deadline for case resolutions.
Imran Khan challenged these amendments, arguing their unconstitutionality. His petition contended that various sections of the NAB law contradicted the Constitution and violated fundamental rights as enshrined in Article 9, 14, 19, 24, and 25.
To address Khan’s plea, a special three-member bench was formed on July 15, 2022. The first hearing occurred on July 19 of that year, after Khan’s lawyer Khawaja Haris filed an application against the NAB amendments. The federal government and NAB were also parties to the petition.
With this verdict, Pakistan’s legal landscape undergoes a significant transformation, impacting the accountability of public office holders and setting a precedent for the country’s fight against corruption.