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Pak SC rejects NAB's review petition against Hudaibya case verdict

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Islamabad, Oct 29: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seeking review of the top court's judgement regarding reopening of the Hudaibya Paper Mills (HPM) reference.

A three-judge SC bench comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel had rejected the NAB appeal on Jan 5 against the quashment of the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibya corruption reference by the Lahore High Court in 2014. The same bench heard the review petition today.

The 39-page NAB review petition, which was filed through special prosecutor Imran-ul-Haq, had argued that the Jan 5 judgement of the SC in the Hudaibya case was in conflict with the Panama Papers case verdict issued by a larger bench and was, therefore, required to be revisited.

At the outset of the hearing, the bench asked the NAB prosecutor to point out flaws in the SC judgement.

Haq argued that the accused in the corruption reference had never been indicted.

"It's your own doing, you may delay the indictment for years if you wish," Justice Isa told Haq, observing that the bureau had failed to proceed with indicting the accused even though the Hudaibya reference was filed in the year 2000.

Justice Isa noted that it was during the rule of an army general that the reference was filed. "There was no political pressure on [NAB]" not to file the reference, he remarked.

The reference was filed against members of the Sharif family in 2000 over the opening of alleged “Benami” foreign currency accounts in 1992. But the SC bench asked NAB today whether it was a crime to open foreign currency accounts abroad.

"No, it is not a crime," prosecutor Haq responded.

The prosecutor further argued that former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who had turned approver against the Sharifs in April 2000, had backtracked from his confessional statement after the LHC quashed the reference.

And the respondents in the reference never appeared before a court. The LHC judgement was flawed due to these two reasons, the prosecutor said.

The court then grilled NAB over why Dar's statement had been recorded before a magistrate. Justice Isa observed that an approver's statement could not have been recorded before a magistrate following an amendment in the accountability laws.

"Even if Ishaq Dar confessed to everything, what effect would it have on the case?" he asked.

Justice Alam wondered for how many years the sword of Damocles could be hung above a person.

With the NAB prosecutor having failed to satisfy the bench with arguments against the earlier SC judgement, the court rejected the review petition filed by the bureau.

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