Pakistan’s Supreme Court (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial was notified Wednesday that it was “aware of” interference by “authorities” in the investigation and prosecution of criminal matters against government officials.
According to a press release released by the Supreme Court, the CJP, on the recommendation of a fellow Supreme Court judge, “recognized that it interfered with the independence of the prosecution service in carrying out its powers and duties over investigation and prosecution.” Criminal matters related to government authorities are pending today.”
The press release added that such interference could affect the prosecution of the case, cause evidence to be tampered with or disappear from courts, or may come into the possession of the prosecution body, and could result in the transfer or placement of officers in key positions.
The press release, along with “media coverage” of the change in liability law, said that such action has the potential to “damage” the functioning of the country’s criminal justice system.
“It amounts to a violation of fundamental rights that affect society as a whole. [of] “People’s trust in the rule of law and constitutionalism of the state,” he added.
CJP said that tomorrow (Thursday) at 1 PM, it will lead a five-person bench presiding over the hearing of the case.
The SC press release did not address the “pending criminal matter” it referred to. However, the FBI is currently investigating a money laundering case against Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif and Punjab Prime Minister Hamza Shebaz.
The two were due to be charged, but the case was delayed until February. Former FIA director Mohammad Rizwan died of a heart attack last week while investigating the case.
Rizwan took a long leave right before the formation of a PMLN-led coalition and resigned as FIA Lahore manager last month. His name was also placed on the no-fly list.
PTI President Imran Khan recently claimed that CM Hamza “threated” Rizwan and that he died under “excessive pressure” as a result. Imran also alleges that FIA officials have been relocated or threatened since the new government came to power.
Last week, reports emerged that the FIA had withdrawn its lawsuit against Shehbaz and Hamza. The FIA later denied the report, saying in a press release that “the case has not been withdrawn and court proceedings are ongoing.”
Watchdog appointed a new special prosecutor on the case on Friday.
It is also appropriate to mention that key figures within the new government’s allied parties have called for the complete dissolution of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or the amendment of the law by the anti-corruption watchdog group.
Last month, PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called for the dissolution of the agency and said it should be held accountable. Meanwhile, PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari said last week that amendments to the NAB law are needed before the next general election.
On Tuesday, the cabinet agreed to the amendments, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif formed a committee to reform the NAB’s “harsh laws” to eliminate political sacrifices. Ministers believed that the NAB’s “hard laws” had become political scapegoats and used to intimidate public officials and the business community.