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Another significant Pak SC action against perceived interference by authorities

ISLAMABAD: In another significant development, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court Justice Umar Ata Bandial Wednesday took a suo motu notice on the perceived apprehension of “persons in authority” undermining the criminal justice system.

In a press release, the apex court said the CJP took the notice of perceived interference in the “independence of the prosecution branch in the performance of its powers and duties for the investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in the government”.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial

The chief justice took notice of the perceived interference on the recommendations of a judge belonging to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the statement said.

The court, expressing worries, said that such perceived interferences may influence the prosecution of cases, tampering, disappearing of evidence in courts or in possession of prosecuting agencies, and transfer and postings of officers on key posts.

“Such actions, along with media reports to modify accountability laws, are likely to undermine the functioning of the criminal justice system in the country and that tantamounts to violation of fundamental rights affecting the society as a whole and eroding the confidence of the people in the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country,” the statement said.

Taking notice of the matter, the chief justice has fixed the matter for tomorrow at 1pm before a five-member larger bench to be headed by himself. The SC did not disclose the names of the members.

According to a press release issued by the Supreme Court, the CJP took the notice on the recommendation of a fellow apex court judge about the “perceived interference in the independence of the 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 press release added that such interference could influence the prosecution of cases, result in tampering or disappearing of evidence in courts or in possession of prosecuting agencies and lead to transfers and postings of officers on key posts.

The press release said that such actions, along with “media reports” about changes in accountability laws, were likely to “undermine” the functioning of the country’s criminal justice system.

Supreme Court of Pakistan,

It said the CJP would head a five-member bench presiding over the hearing for the case tomorrow (Thursday) at 1pm.

It is pertinent to mention here that key figures from within the allied parties of the new government have called for either complete dissolution of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or amendments to the corruption watchdog’s laws.

Last month, PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called for the institution’s dissolution and said it should be held accountable. Meanwhile, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, last week, said that changes in the NAB laws were necessary before going to the next general elections.

On Tuesday, the cabinet consented to amendments and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif constituted a committee to reform NAB’s “draconian law” to do away with political victimisation. The cabinet members were of the view that NAB’s “draconian law” had been used for political victimisation and to intimidate government officers and the business community.