PML-N leaders, former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and ex-finance minister Miftah Ismail, on Tuesday refused to benefit from the recent amendments made to the country’s accountability law in the LNG reference against them.
However, other co-accused in the case sought dismissal of the reference on the basis of the National Accountability (NAO) Ordinance, 2021, compelling accountability court judge Mohammad Azam to seek a response from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the matter.
As the accused appeared before the accountability court, defence lawyers sought time from the judge to examine the new ordinance.
Barrister Qasim Abbasi and Barrister Zafarullah, who were representing the co-accused in the reference, maintained that the amended NAO ordinance had been promulgated and they would file a petition for his clients’ acquittal on its basis.
Barrister Qasim contended that the case did not hold merit anymore under Section-B of the ordinance.
Barrister Zafarullah noted that a case against former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf was filed in 2010 and he later benefitted from amendments to the law in 2019.
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“This case no longer falls under the ambit of NAB and accountability courts under the [new] ordinance,” he added.
“It has also exempted non-public office holders [from NAB’s jurisdiction].”
The lawyer further pointed out that if a case involved taxes, a separate tribunal formed for this purpose would look into the matter.
The NAB prosecutor argued that the exemption of cabinet affairs under the ordinance was applicable from October 6. A private airline’s CEO, Chaudhry Aslam, pleaded with the court for the removal of his name from the reference as he was a “private person”.
PML-N Senior Vice President Abbasi and Ismail refused to be part of the application filed under the new ordinance.
The judge sought NAB’s reply on the co-accused’s application and adjourned the hearing till October 26.
Speaking to the media, Abbasi lashed out at the PTI-led government, saying that it appeared that the whole process of accountability relied on a single individual – NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal.
“It seems like the NAB chairman has been appointed for life. Only time will tell what will become of this chairman and [Prime Minister] Imran Khan in future,” he added.
He maintained that the government was not allowing Iqbal to retire because it wanted to hide its corruption.
Abbasi criticised the government for not consulting with the opposition before deciding to extend Iqbal’s tenure. As per the ordinance, Iqbal will remain in his seat till the appointment of a new chief of NAB. It further stated that Iqbal could also be chosen as a candidate for the new NAB chairman slot.
The PML-N leader pledged to challenge the ordinance in courts and the Senate on Friday.