An Accountability Court in Islamabad on Tuesday wrapped up proceedings in an assets-beyond-means case against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, citing recent amendments to accountability laws to declare the case does not fall under its jurisdiction.
“After the [National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act, 2022], this case does not fall under the jurisdiction of this court,” Judge Mohammad Bashir announced while rendering his verdict, which had been reserved a day earlier.
Noting that the case no longer falls under its ambit, the court said it no longer had the authority to rule on the acquittal plea filed by Dar. “We can neither announce a decision in favor of NAB [National Accountability Bureau], nor can we issue a decision in favor of the suspect. The trial against Ishaq Dar ends here,” said Judge Bashir.
The case against Dar was filed by NAB in December 2017 in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Panama Papers case. After the finance minister left Pakistan for London—where he spent five years in self-exile—he was declared a proclaimed offender over his absence from proceedings. However, all arrest warrants against him were suspended after he returned to Pakistan last month and personally appeared in court.
In August, the National Assembly passed the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022, restricting the scope of NAB to only “mega” scandals. The legislation has been heavily criticized by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which maintains that this incumbent government is seeking to avoid accountability by changing the law. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan over the maintainability of the petition, with his counsel arguing that it violates the public’s fundamental rights.
Thus far, per local media, accountability courts have returned 50 major corruption cases against various suspects, including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, former Punjab chief minister Hamza Shahbaz, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, since the legislation was enacted.