Court Returns Reference against Iqbal Z. Ahmed, Sons to NAB

Case returned owing to lack of jurisdiction

An accountability court in Karachi has returned a graft reference against Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL) owner Iqbal Z. Ahmed, his two sons and others back to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) owing to lack of jurisdiction.

According to a report published in daily The News, Iqbal Z. Ahmed, his sons Fasihuddin Ahmed and Raziuddin Ahmed, as well as accused Asim Iftikhar, Salamat Ali, Qazi Humayun Fareed and Mohammad Ramazan were accused by NAB in 2020 for allegedly laundering billions of rupees through corrupt practices. The report noted sources close to Mr. Ahmed had said the returning of the reference made clear they were declared innocent, and the matter now stood closed.

Last year, the case was transferred from Hyderabad to Karachi on the orders of the Sindh High Court (SHC) after which Mr. Ahmed and his fellow accused submitted an application to Accountability Judge-IV Shahid Pervez Memon seeking the return of the reference to NAB for lack of jurisdiction.

The case is among the references that were restored to their original status after the Supreme Court in September 2023 struck down amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

During the hearing, the judge noted the accused were neither public office-holders, now had they received any monetary gain. He observed there was no criminal breach of trust as defined under Section 405 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with any property, including money or valuable security, entrusted by members of the public.

“It is matter of record that there is no number of hundred percent affectees who were cheated at the hands of the applicants/accused,” observed the judge, recalling NAB’s investigating officer had admitted in his reply the accused were all private persons. He said that according to the application, there was no allegation in the interim and supplementary references filed by NAB that the transactions conducted by the accused, or their companies, were directly or indirectly connected to a public office-holder, and that the funds, property or interest involved or belonged to the government.

“The NAB authorities in their reply have also referred to Section 4(4)(d) of the NAO, 1999, meaning thereby that they themselves admitted that this court has no jurisdiction to entertain the instant reference, and the judgement passed by the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan will not affect the case of the applicants/accused,” he added.

In compliance with the apex court’s judgement, said the judge, NAB authorities “without scrutinizing, returned the references, again submitted all the references before the courts concerned.” Subsequently, the judge returned the reference to the NAB chairman with all relevant documents for presenting them before the relevant court in accordance with law.

He added the accused—Iqbal Z. Ahmed, Fasihuddin Ahmed, Raziuddin Ahmed, Asim Iftikhar, Salamat Ali, Qazi Humayun Fareed and Mohammad Ramazan—would remain on bail until the matter is presented before the relevant court, when they would submit fresh bail pleas before it.

The counsel for the applicants had argued the Hyderabad accountability court had dismissed their application seeking to return the reference to NAB on March 7, 2023. The order was challenged in the SHC’s Hyderabad circuit bench, which then directed the trial court to return the reference to the NAB chief, he noted.

He said that on September 15, 2023, the SC struck down some sections of the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2022, and the Second Amendment Act, 2022, as a result of which the trial court restored the reference to its original status and issued notices to the accused.

The counsel contended that the top court had set aside the amendments pertaining to public office holders and public servants, as well as taken away NAB’s jurisdiction to handle corruption cases involving an amount lower than Rs. 500 million. “All the applicants/accused are private persons, and no public office holder is involved in this reference, nor any loss to the national exchequer has occurred,” said the counsel, pleading with the court to return the reference to the NAB chief for filing it before the forum concerned.