NAB Amendment Case: Imran Khan Formally Expresses Mistrust On CJP Qazi Faez Isa

In submission, seeks removal of CJP Isa from the bench to "uphold the principle of unbias-ness and impartiality and in the interest of justice."

NAB Amendment Case: Imran Khan Formally Expresses Mistrust On CJP Qazi Faez Isa

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) incarcerated founder, Imran Khan, on Wednesday formally expressed his lack of trust in Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa to adjudicate appeals in a case he had brought against amendments made to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law.

In a four-page application submitted to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Imran argued that observations contained in a majority judgment of the Supreme Court reported as "In the matter of: Action against Distribution of Development Funds to MNAs / MPAs by Prime Minister" (PLD 2021 SC 446).

"In the said judgment, it is observed that in order to uphold the principle of unbiasedness and impartiality, it would be in the interest of justice that Justice Qazi Faez Isa (as he then was, now Chief Justice) should not hear matters involving me (Imran)."

Curiously, Imran Khan did not offer any further compelling reason for his request and instead used the opportunity provided by the document to reiterate his reason for challenging the amendments and repeating his tirade against members of the incumbent government for absolving itself of alleged financial misappropriations and asserting that it was not about him or his personal gain and loss but on a "collective benefit".

"The amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 represent an unprecedented and egregious example of legislative manipulation. There is no parallel anywhere in the world, not even in banana republics, where laws have been crafted specifically to absolve corrupt individuals of their wrongdoings," he argued, adding that those engaged in corrupt practices have exploited these person-specific amendments to shield their ill-gotten assets, using parliament as a tool for personal gain.

"While Parliament has the authority to enact any law," Imran conceded, adding, "it must do so within the bounds of the Constitution."

He argued that no legislation should contradict the spirit of the Constitution and justice, especially when it comes to laws addressing money laundering and other crimes.

"Such laws must be crafted with the highest degree of integrity, ensuring that no loopholes exist for those who have plundered the nation's wealth," he argued.

Curiously, Imran continued that lawmakers hold their power as a trust bestowed upon them by the people and cannot betray this trust for personal or political gain, even though his party had once pushed to make it illegal for lawmakers to vote their conscience and bound them to vote according to political lines for the political gain of a few.

"It is imperative that our legislative process does not provide sanctuary for those who have looted the nation's resources. Laws must protect the interests of the people, not the corrupt elite who exploit their positions of power for personal gain," he argued.

Claiming that corruption and legislative manipulation have severe economic repercussions, Imran argued that they erode investor confidence, hinder economic growth, and exacerbate poverty.

"The amendments to NAB Ordinance, designed to protect the corrupt, will have long-term detrimental effects on our economy, making it harder for honest businesses to thrive and for foreign investors to trust our legal system," he continued.

The former prime minister noted how, during the adjudicating of his case, Justice Athar Minallah had stated that the NAB amendments would benefit him personally as well. "But my response was clear: this is not about personal gain but the greater good of our country and millions of Pakistanis who place their faith in a system that should serve them," he said.

"The focus must always be on the collective benefit of our nation, rather than individual advantages," he claimed as he pointed how in his political career, he had consistently taken a stand against corruption, even at great personal risk and sacrifice, including his current imprisonment. 

"My life's work and sacrifices have always been dedicated to the fight against corruption and the establishment of justice," Imran claimed.

Imran also mentioned how NAB had targeted him, which has prompted him to rethink his position on reforming the NAB ordinance to prevent abuses.

"If NAB is abusing its authority and powers, as it did in the Toshakhana case, then the NAB Ordinance should be reformed to prevent such abuses," he argued, adding, "It is essential to ensure that no personnel of NAB, including the chairman, can misuse their powers."

He did ultimately veer into how NAB abused its authority when prosecuting him.

"The most glaring example of this abuse is the NAB case against me, where a necklace worth Rs18 million was falsely declared as being worth Rs3.18 billion, leading to an unjust case being filed. This kind of manipulation must be stopped to uphold justice," he claimed.

However, he believed that instead of abolishing NAB or weakening its mandate, it must be strengthened, while addressing its shortcomings and preventing abuse of power.

"The amendments to NAB laws were made with the sole intention of ending cases against those involved in corruption. These individuals strategically altered the law to ensure their own cases would be dismissed. The amendments not only terminate their cases but also significantly hinder the prosecution of white-collar crimes in the future. This undermines the very foundation of justice and allows corruption to flourish unchecked," he argued.

Imran also lamented that the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) agreement with various countries had been abolished, making it difficult to obtain information about assets owned by a citizen abroad. Moreover, he claimed that under the new law, the onus of proving money or assets were obtained through ill-gotten means was shifted from the accused to the Bureau.

The PTI founder lamented that no investigations were launched into the recent Dubai Leaks, which showed that Pakistanis were amongst the top offshore property owners in the tiny Gulf emirate.

"NAB or FIA should have immediately conducted inquiries into these cases, but NAB is not doing so because they have been directed to work specifically against me," he argued, adding that this selective enforcement of justice is a clear indication of the corruption that has taken root within our system.

He ultimately requested the court to dismiss the appeals filed by the government.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain