Thursday, March 23, 2023

Supreme Court bars transfers, appointments in high-profile cases

CJP took suo motu notice of ‘perceived interference’ in the prosecution of government officials

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has barred government authorities from transferring and making new appointments in high-profile cases related to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as well as those heard by special courts.

The orders came during the hearing of a suo motu case on the apprehensions that “persons in authority” could undermine the criminal justice system. Chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial took suo motu notice on Wednesday on the recommendations of a Supreme Court judge, according to a statement issued by the supreme court.

The CJP had also formed a five-member larger bench to hear the case. The bench comprises CJP Bandial Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.

The bench heard the case on Thursday and issued notices to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director-general, NAB chairman, and interior secretary.

At the hearing, the chief justice expressed concerns over transfers and appointments of NAB and FIA officials in high-profile cases refraining prosecution from withdrawing such cases. The CJP noted that several investigation officers were transferred from NAB Lahore and FIA, including the prosecutor of FIA in the Lahore High Court. The apex court also noted that DG FIA Sanaullah Abbasi and director Rizwan (late) were also replaced.

Referring to Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz’s case, CJP Bandial mentioned that the DG FIA barred one of the investigation officers to appear before the court.

“Nobody should interfere during the investigation and in the affairs of the prosecution branch,” the chief justice told the attorney-general.

The top court also sought an explanation regarding the transfer and appointment of an investigation officer in the case involving Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz.

CJP Bandialalso directed concerned authorities, including prosecutor generals of all four provinces, head of prosecution FIA, and NAB DGs of all provinces, to seal the investigation and prosecution record of all the pending high-profile cases.

The development comes days after media reports suggested a high-profile money laundering case against the prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son would be dropped by a federal investigation agency.

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