The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday stopped the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from taking disciplinary action against a senior officer of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Director General (DG) NAB Lahore Major (retd) Shahzad Saleem had approached the IHC on July 13 against the PAC’s decision to summon him following Tayyaba Gul’s harassment allegations.
On July 15, the IHC issued notices to the attorney general for Pakistan, seeking his assistance on the question, of whether or not the court could issue a writ against the PAC.
During the hearing today, Acting Chief Justice Amir Farooq heard the application in IHC.
Additional Prosecutor General NAB Jahanzeb Khan Bharwana informed the court about the provisions of the parliamentary investigation as per Article 69, which he argued posits for only “procedural action”.
The judge remarked that “the PAC falls under the parliament’s domain”, to which the NAB counsel presented a copy of the National Assembly rules to the court and added that a Supreme Court decision on the PAC’s powers was also present.
“The issue here is the arbitrariness of the PAC” he said.
Noting the developments following Tayyaba Gull’s complaint being filed in the PAC, he said that “the direction of the PAC is very important”. The counsel argued that the committee “exceeded its authority” when it summoned the former chairman NAB, as a case on the matter was already pending in Lahore High Court (LHC). Bharwana also presented a copy of a stay order issued by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on the matter before the IHC.
The NAB prosecutor told the court that “while the writ was filled yesterday, we have been given a notice that the Ministry of Interior is to ensure their [DG NAB’s] appearance [before the PAC] today”.
The IHC, rejecting the Deputy Attorney General’s (DAG) request opposing the issuing of notices to the public spending watchdog, inquired whether the committee had “the authority to summon on matters beyond public funds”.
“A notice to the PAC would mean sending a notice to the PAC chairman”, stated the DAG. Upon this, the court responded that “if notices can be issued to chairman senate, then why not to the PAC chairman?”.
Yesterday, the ongoing tussle between the PAC and the NAB worsened when the chairman of the former expressed his displeasure over the latter challenging its mandate in the IHC.
During a meeting of the PAC, its chairman Noor Alam Khan while hinting at taking action under Article 6 against those NAB officials who had not declared their assets or presented the record of closed cases, had issued notices to the anti-graft body’s acting Chairman Zahir Shah and Lahore DG Shahzad Saleem to appear before it on Wednesday (today) at 1pm.
He had also directed that if they did not appear before the committee, police should take them into custody and present them before the body.
The IHC today adjourned the hearing after issuing a notice to the parties, including Secretary National Assembly and Secretary Public Accounts Committee, on Shahzad Saleem’s request.
Earlier, Tayyaba Gul’s lawyer appeared in court and requested to be a party to the case. The court inquired how she was “the affected party” and what may compel her to “become a party to the case”.
Gul had alleged before PAC on July 8 that NAB Director General Shahzad Saleem along with others installed cameras in a room at the bureau’s Lahore Office, stripped her naked and made videos that were later shown to her husband for mentally torturing him, when he was in custody in ‘fake’ cases.
Issuing a notice on Tayyaba Gull’s request on the matter, the IHC directed the lawyer to argue on the request to be a party at the next hearing.