LAHORE  -  The arrest of Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif by the NAB and the consequential remand order passed by an accountability court have been challenged in the Lahore High Court (LHC) which will take up the petition today.

Justice Baqar Ali Najafi will take up today the writ petition filed by Hafiz Mushtaq Naeemi against the NAB chairman and the Federation of Pakistan.

The National Accountability Bureau had arrested Shehbaz in a Rs14 billion Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case accusing him of awarding illegal contracts to his favourite company and the accountability court later had granted his physical remand for 10 days till October 16.

During the hearing, the NAB prosecutor had argued that the former Punjab chief minister misused his powers and his actions caused a big loss to the national exchequer. He told the court that the competent authority had authorised an inquiry against management/officials of Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), Lahore Casa Developers, Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and others vide a letter that was later converted into investigation. And that an interim reference No 50/2018 against the officials and others was also under trial before the court, he said.

As per the NAB official, Shehbaz, being then chief minister, unlawfully assumed powers of Board of Directors of PLDC, misused his authority and acted in connivance with Fawad Hassan Fawad, the then secretary (implementation) to Punjab CM. The accused illegally and with malafide intention forwarded the matter to Anti –Corruption Establishment (ACE) to kneel down the successful bidder to their whims, he added.

The writ petition, filed through Zulfiqar Ahmad Bhulla Advocate under Article 199 of the Constitution, says NAB Ordinance 1999 was promulgated by then President Pervez Musharaf and regularised by the parliament. Under Article 270AA(2) of the Constitution, it further says, the ordinances which were in force at the time of 18th Amendment 2010 shall continue to be in force until altered, repealed or amended by the competent authority. Under Article 89 of the Constitution, an ordinance which is promulgated by the president will remain in field for 120 days and both the houses can extend the ordinance for a period of 120 days and such extension of the ordinance under Article 89(2) is for only once meaning that the Senate and the National Assembly now cannot regularise the ordinance envisaged under Article 270AA. Thus, both Article 89(2) and article 270AA are contradictory to each other which require the attention of this court, the petitioner says.

“Moreover, the section 15 of the NAB Ordinance 1999 provides ‘where an accused person is convicted of an offence Under Section 9 of this Ordinance shall forthwith cease to hold public office if any held by him, and further he shall stand disqualified for a period of 10 years’. No law can explain the disqualification of an existing member as clause P of Article 63(1) provides only the disqualification from being chosen through a law,” he states. “Even a disqualification from being chosen under clause P of Article 63(1) and explanation can be through a law other than an ordinance, so section 15 of NAB Ordinance cannot explain even disqualification from being chosen of a member of parliament or provincial assembly.”

He states that section 15 of the NAB Ordinance is violative of the procedure laid down in Article 63(2) for the disqualification of an existing member of parliament.

He quotes Article 248 of the Constitution as saying that the president, a governor, the prime minister, a federal minister, a minister of state, the chief minister and a provincial minister shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions: provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as restricting the right of any person to bring appropriate proceedings against the federation or province.

The law provides a personal protection to the offices mentioned above so NAB Ordinance 1999 is violative of Article 248(1), he states. He prayed that Section 15 of NAB Ordinance was contradictory to the explanation of Article 63(p) and Article 63(2) and liable to be struck down. He finally prayed that the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif and consequential remand order dated October 6, 2018 was violative of Article 248 of the Constitution and be suspended.

 

 

Shahzad Ahmad