Overloaded ACs can’t obey own law

The News

ISLAMABAD: Some 1,210 corruption references, involving nearly Rs900 billion of allegedly looted money, are pending before 26 accountability courts around the country, but hardly any of these cases match the pace of trial which has been set for the Sharifs by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
This situation is even embarrassing for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), whose senior officials insist that, despite the Bureau’s requests for early hearings, the accountability courts are taking years to decide corruption cases.
On condition of not being named, the NAB officials shared the details of these cases, while expressing confidence that the Supreme Court would direct the accountability courts across Pakistan to decide the pending cases as soon as possible.
These sources explained that the NAB Ordinance 1990 envisages that accused persons prosecuted for an offence under the ordinance in the accountability courts would have their cases heard on consecutive days, and that the cases would be disposed of within 30 days.
However, in real life the accountability courts take months and years to decide a case – in certain cases, several years – and there is hardly any precedent during the last 10-15 years where cases have been decided within the stipulated time period.
Even the legal condition of day-to-day hearing is hardly followed, except in the Sharifs’ cases, the sources said.
Some outsiders, however, said that the NAB, too, plays its role in dilly-delaying the trials of the people it is prosecuting in references before the accountability courts.
Former NAB deputy prosecutor-general Amir Abbas, a senior legal practitioner, told The News that the reasons for delays in the disposal of corruption references include: the casual attitude of the NAB in pursuing the prosecution of these cases; the efforts of accused parties to prolong the proceedings so as to weaken the evidence and witnesses; and the high number of cases being heard by a disproportionately small number of courts.
Amir Abbas said that a court could not justly hearing more than two corruption references a day, whereas the caseload of each accountability court is far heavier.
Details show that there are five accountability courts in Lahore; two in Islamabad; four in Rawalpindi; five in Karachi; one in Hyderabad; four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP); two in Balochistan, and one each in Gilgit, Multan and Sukkur.
The number of references pending before these courts is 1,210 while the number of accused parties in these cases is 8,975. A total of 362 cases are pending before accountability courts in Lahore; 269 are awaiting decisions in six accountability courts in Karachi and Hyderabad; 200 cases are pending before four accountability courts in KP; 97 cases are with two accountability courts in Balochistan; 191 cases are pending before seven accountability courts in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Gilgit; the Multan court has 58 cases pending , whereas the Sukkur court has 33 undecided cases before it.
In terms of the number of accused parties and the volume of allegedly looted money involved, the Karachi-Hyderabad circuit tops the list with 1,800 persons accused of plundering a staggering total of Rs763 billion.
Before the Lahore accountability courts, the number of accused is 1,799 and the money involved totals Rs55 billion. In the KP accountability courts cases, the accused number 1,194, while the money involved is Rs28 billion.
A total of 1,484 accused parties in 191 cases involving Rs22 billion of alleged proceeds of corruption are being tried by the accountability courts of Rawalpindi-Islamabad and Gilgit.
These special courts in Balochistan are presently trying 498 accused parties accused of plundering Rs10 billion.
The Multan and Sukkur courts are trying 1,547 and 653 accused parties, respectively. Some Rs10 billion is the sum of allegedly looted money involved in cases before the Multan court, while Rs3.8 billion is involved in cases before Sukkur court.
Only because of the directions of the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case are the accountability courts in Islamabad fast-tracking the hearings of the corruption references against Nawaz Sharif and his children, as well as those of former finance minister Ishaq Dar.
While even in these cases the accountability courts have had to seek extensions lasting months, in the other more than 1,200 corruption references, there is barely any check on the accountability courts for delaying these references for years.

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