ISLAMABAD: A larger bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan today barred the FIA prosecution branch from withdrawing cases and directed them not to make any transfer or posting until further order by the court.
The court also ordered to seal all the records of high-profile cases. The apex court has sought an explanation of recent transfers/postings and changes in the NAB and FIA.
The apex court started hearing on the issue of ‘perceived interference’ from the current government into the prosecution of high profile cases. The Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial took suo moto notice of the case a day earlier.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar met at around 1pm.
The court issued notices to the NAB chairman, FIA DG, and interior secretary, demanding an explanation about interference in prosecution.
The court also issued notices to provincial prosecutor generals, FIA prosecution head, and FIA director legal, ordering them to submit individual responses.
At the beginning of the hearing, Chief Justice Bandial raised questions about the transfer of FIA GD Sanaullah Abbasi and FIA Lahore chief Dr Rizwan, who later died.
The judge said that Abbasi is a reputable officer who performed well in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, so why he was transferred.
He said that Dr Rizwan, too, was a competent officer and he was transferred and later died of cardiac arrest.
The top judge expressed concerns on all these issues and said prima facie it amounted to interference in the criminal justice system.
The chief justice said that newspaper clippings indicated that thousands of names were removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) and at least 3,000 people benefitted after the ECL rules were modified.
The chief justice said that the suo moto proceedings were not aimed at embarrassing or accusing someone and instead they were meant to safeguard the rule of law and protection of the criminal justice system.
The court wanted Articles 10 and 25 of the constitution to be followed in letter and spirit, he said.
The chief justice noted that FIA prosecutors had issued a statement about interference and the FIA did not deny it.
He said the court expected the federal government to be cooperative in explaining these steps.
The top judge said that newspaper reports claimed that criminal records in at least four NAB cases had disappeared. He asked the attorney general to help the court in the issue.
Justice Mazahar said that the FIA prosecutor had told the court in a written submission that he was instructed by the government to not appear before the government. “It was said that the [the officer] must not appear in the case involving the person who was to become chief minister, prime minister,” Justice Mazahar remarked.
The CJP had taken suo moto notice on the recommendation of a Supreme Court judge, according to a release issued by the top court Wednesday night.
The release said that Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial took the suo moto notice of “perceived interference in [the] independence of prosecution branch in performance of its powers and duties for the investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in the government today,” the statement said.
The statement suggested that the transfer and posting of officials was also seen as an act of interference.