Justice Mansoor Ali Shah on Friday observed that it appeared there were concerted attempts to find flaws in amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, adding this was not a case of violation of fundamental rights requiring judicial intervention.
Justice Shah is part of a three-member bench, alongside Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, hearing a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan against the amendments. During today’s hearing, PTI’s legal counsel Khawaja Haris argued that fundamental rights of people were impacted by flaws in the accountability process of public office-holders in NAB cases.
However, Justice Shah rebutted this, questioning on what basis the amendments could be nullified by the apex court even if it were to be accepted that they were legislated solely to benefit lawmakers. Haris responded by citing Article 9 of the Constitution, which Justice Shah said was insufficient.
“Let the judiciary and Parliament operate in their own way, otherwise the democratic system will not work,” he observed, adding it was unfortunate that efforts were underway to find flaws in the amended bill despite months of hearings not supporting it. Noting elections were due shortly, he said it should be left for the people to decide if they wished to vote in lawmakers who reversed the amendments.
“The biggest violation is how a person who left Parliament of his own free will is questioning the legislation,” remarked Justice Shah, in a reference to petitioner Khan, who quit the National Assembly after being ousted as prime minister through a vote of no-confidence. To Haris asserting that the decision to resign from Parliament was a “political decision,” the judge questioned: “Parliament’s forum was there. How did someone leave the representation of their constituency? What is the good intention of the petitioner?”
A day earlier, Justice Shah had similarly lamented over the bid to attribute malice to Parliament’s decision to amend the NAB laws. He has also regretted that 17 unelected judges are called on to nullify legislation introduced by lawmakers representing 240 million citizens of the country.
Contrary to Justice Shah’s observations, however, the CJP remarked that the NAB laws were being misused. “Pardons are being given by NAB indiscriminately,” he remarked, adding it was the state’s responsibility to establish a just and fair society. “The state has to ensure that criminals do not roam free,” he said, adding “many fundamental rights have been affected by the NAB amendments.”
The hearing was then adjourned until Sept. 5 after the attorney general for Pakistan requested some time to present arguments related to the case.