Lahore - Accepting appeal, the Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday exonerated a man four years after his death and set aside accountability court’s judgement which also exposes flaws in the criminal justice system of the country.

This has been done in one of the oldest cases on criminal side pending before the Supreme Court coming from Accountability Court of Lahore.

The National Accountability Bureau chairman had filed Reference No. 35/2001 dated 12.5.2001 pertaining to irregularities in Services Cooperative Credit Corporation Limited (SCCCL). The accountability court in Lahore had convicted Col (r) Iftikhar Ahmad Awan on 12-6-2002 for a term of 14 years (rigorous imprisonment) and a fine of Rs250.87 million and an additional fine of Rs500 million.

This judgment of the Accountability Court was challenged before the Lahore High Court. The learned court vide order dated 20.05.2005 maintained conviction of Col. (Retd) Iftikhar Ahmad Awan, a brother of Mr Zulfiqar Ahmad Awan, the chairman Services Cooperative Credit Corporation Limited, however, amended the sentence by reducing sentence from 14 years R.I. to 5 years R.I.. The LHC maintained sentence of fine Rs 250.87 million whereas the additional fine of Rs 500 million was completely set aside.

The judgment of the high court was assailed in the Supreme Court vide Criminal Appeal No636/2009 on which the Supreme Court granted leave; meanwhile the appellant Col. (r) Iftikhar Ahmad Awan after serving his entire sentence embarked on his eternal journey on 22nd April, 2015 while the appeals were pending before the Supreme Court.

The legal heirs of late Iftikhar Ahmad petitioned before the Supreme Court for making them party and in order to hear and decide the appeal on merit so that the stigmatic conviction may be removed from the name of the deceased who was, according to them, an honest and upright gentleman and had not made any fortune from SCCCL. The Supreme Court allowed this application on 21-09-2017 and yesterday the case came up for final hearing before a bench headed by the chief justice.

Advocate Akram Sheikh representing the appellant submitted that this was a classic case of highhandedness of NAB of their unconstitutional intrusion in judicial dispensation. He said that in this voluminous reference there is not even a single paper coming from a lawful source or custody, comprising any legally admissible evidence and unfortunately the courts below have been condoning their highhandedness by overlooking the same. Akram Sheikh also submitted that the NAB was the first militarised investigating agency in Pakistan conceived and launched by Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf’s regime and its affairs were being headed by Ten Corps for a pretty long time and this case pertains to those intensive Ten Corps surveillance days of the accountability process.

Akram Sheikh submitted that under the law laid down by the apex court, no person could be convicted unless there was a lawful proof against him/her coming from a lawful source and produced by either the custodian of the record or their office. He said that he will not press his Appeal if the prosecution can point out a single such document from the file containing plethora of documents, upon which the learned Supreme Court called upon Mr. Jehanzeb Bharwana the learned prosecutor representing NAB to show from the record any documents coming from the proper custody or being admissible in evidence.

Mr Bharwana argued the case for about good 45 minutes but could not point out one single document as was alleged by the counsel for the appellant whereafter the learned bench was pleased to accept the appeal, set aside the conviction and sentence posthumous by acquitting the late Iftikhar Ahmad from the charges. The Supreme Court also annulled the sentence of fine and declared it equally unlawful.