Analysts weigh in on SC verdict on NAB amendments

This undated handout picture, available on the official website, shows the headquarters of the National Accountability Bureau, Islamabad. — NAB website
This undated handout picture, available on the official website, shows the headquarters of the National Accountability Bureau, Islamabad. — NAB website
  • Hamid Mir calls SC verdict “extremely controversial”.
  • Ansar Abbasi raises questions over purpose of SC ruling.
  • “Criminal clan back in dock,” PTI spokesperson says.

After the Supreme Court on Friday approved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s plea challenging amendments made to the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) laws passed during the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government, it has added fuel to the fire owing to the country’s already chaotic political landscape.

The verdict has raised questions over the future of several politicians in the country whose political careers are now in the hands of NAB, as their cases, as per the court’s decision, would be reopened under the anti-graft body’s laws.

The three-member bench — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ijazul Ahsan — held more than 50 hearings on PTI chief Khan’s petition against the amendments and reserved the judgment on the hearing on September 5.

In a majority 2-1 verdict today — with a dissenting note by Justice Shah — the SC restored graft cases against public office holders that were closed down following the amendments. The country’s top court also struck down some amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

‘Extremely controversial’

Sharing his view on the decision, senior journalist and analyst Hamid Mir said that the verdict issued by CJP Bandial was “expected” and everyone is familiar with the political inclination of the two judges in the bench.

“This was an extremely controversial issue and two extremely controversial judges have issued a verdict on it. Since this decision was issued following a 2-1 majority, a review petition can be easily filed against it,” Mir said.

He added that the notion regarding CJP Bandial’s inclination towards a particular political party gained strength after the issuance of the verdict. Mir also highlighted the ways in which NAB has been used by politicians in the past for political victimisation.

“It was also mentioned in some SC verdicts that NAB is used for political engineering,” he said, adding that most cases restored after the apex court’s verdict are still being heard in courts to date.

Mir, too, termed NAB an “institution for political vengeance” and one that births new political entities, and it should be suspended.

He added that since there is no parliament to defend the strike down of the NAB amendments, the matter will again go to a larger SC bench. 

Ansar Abbasi, a senior investigative journalist, termed the verdict as the SC “playing to the galleries”.

The courts, he added, are supposed to provide justice and have a role in addressing flaws in systems. He added that in the verdicts issued by the Supreme Court and high courts in the past, NAB has been referred to in a negative light.

“What is the purpose of restoring the [NAB] law in the same state that it was in when criticised?” he asked, questioning the SC’s ruling.

He said that if the law is given a draconian shape, Imran Khan and PTI would be the one to bear most of its brunt.

“In the last 22 to 23 years, NAB has politically victimised people, it has been used as a tool for political engineering, it has played a role in making and dismantling political parties as well as governments,” he said.

‘Criminal clan back in dock’

Reacting to the decision, PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan said the verdict has placed the criminal clan of “Sharifs, Zardaris, Gilanis” back in the dock.

“SC annuls the self-serving NAB amendments with a majority of 2 to 1 thus reinstating all cases in relevant courts of law against these looters & plunderers of national wealth,” the politician wrote, taking to X, formerly Twitter.

Referring to the incoming chief justice and senior puisne judge Qazi Faez Isa in relation to the verdict, Hasan mentioned it will pose a huge challenge to the “new CJP who takes over on September 17”.

“One hopes that he would stand on the side of justice & hold this bunch of criminals to account for grave travesties they committed through their tenures in power,” the PTI spokesperson wrote.

He added that delivering justice is a fundamental pre-requisite to helping the country move forward. “Pakistan needs it more today than ever before.”

Meanwhile, PTI lawyer Shoaib Shaheen hoped that NAB would not be used for political engineering.

“Even today, NAB is being used against chairman PTI It is hoped that NAB will not be used for political engineering,” he said, reacting to the decision.

The lawyer, who is part of Khan’s legal team, said that the PDM government made NAB amendments as soon as it came into power, which were struck down by the Supreme Court.

“An attempt was made to get rid of the cases of Maqsood Chaprasi and papad walas. Now all those cases will be resumed and will continue from where they stopped,” he added.

He claimed that several modifications were made to the NAB law with the aim of taking advantage of it.

“The amendments were prepared by the Sharif family’s personal lawyers,” he said.

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