ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial Friday said one should not be influenced by the opinion of anyone outside the system over the appointment of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman.
During a hearing on the suo motu notice on the “apprehension of persons in authority undermining the criminal justice system”, CJP Bandial advised the Attorney-General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf to carefully consider the appointment of the NAB chairman.
The CJP advised the AGP that the NAB chief should be a competent and trustworthy person, and therefore, his appointment should be made with “careful consideration”.
The chief justice stated that the NAB should not tolerate pressure to bring a case without merit. “If NAB is under pressure, write to us. That does not imply that you must pick and drop any case you want,” he said.
The CJP said there was a high-profile drug case which made headlines and when the investigating officer was asked about it, he had commented that it was a bogus case.
The court subsequently deferred the suo moto hearing until June 14.
Changes in ECL rules
Regarding the process for removing names from the Exit Control List (ECL), the CJP questioned the AGP over the changes made in the rules.
Justice Aijaz ul Hasan inquired as to why 444 names were removed from the ECL so swiftly.
“There is no mention of the revisions being retroactively applied. How can ministers whose names appear on the ECL choose to have them removed?”
CJP Bandial pointed out that “the court placed Khawaja Saad Rafique’s name [on the list],” to which the AGP responded that Rafique was not present in the cabinet meeting that approved the amendments.
“The [amended] guidelines have been accepted by Khawaja Saad Rafique, according to the records. Shouldn’t ministers have kept themselves at a distance from the situation?” Justice Munib Akhtar questioned.
“How is it possible to use a government decision for personal gain? Is there a code of ethics for ministers when it comes to personal matters?” he asked.
According to the AGP, a personal case was not sent to the minister in question because of the code of conduct. At this, Justice Akhtar asked why the code of conduct had not been implemented.
The attorney general, on the other hand, contended that if the prime minister’s name was on the ECL, the cabinet could not make any decisions.
The court was not considering the case to penalise anyone, the CJP remarked.
Justice Akhtar inquired as to who made the decision to apply the amendments retroactively, to which the AGP responded that the decision was made by a sub-committee.
The AGP said: “In my opinion, the ECL should not exist.” The CJP, on the other hand, stated that the court would not consider personal opinions in the case.
AGP Ausaf stated that every citizen’s right to freedom of movement and to travel abroad is protected by the Constitution, and a person’s name cannot be placed on the ECL solely because of ongoing investigations by the NAB and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
According to him, the federal government considers a person’s right to free movement as well as the allegations levelled against him before putting his name on the ECL.
“After completing all legal aspects, the government modified the ECL rules. The revisions would be applied retroactively, according to the cabinet. The federal government has the authority to amend the ECL Rules.”
The names of cabinet members were removed from the ECL, he informed the court so that the government could function properly. “There is no law that says you have to talk to the NAB before removing the names.”
Additionally, Justice Akhtar questioned whether an amendment should be implemented if it benefits the families and friends of those who are doing it.