Lahore - A petition filed against the detention of Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has been referred to a full bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

Earlier, Justice Baqar Ali Najafi had taken up the case and sought an attested copy of a judgment passed by an LHC full bench that consisted of Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Shahid Jameel Khan and Justice Atir Mahmood on the identical issue.

Shehbaz, who is also PML-N president, has been in the custody of NAB since October 6 after the physical remand granted by an accountability court. His arrest and the remand order were challenged in the LHC through a petition filed by Hafiz Mushtaq Naeemi through Zulfiqar Ahmad Bhulla Advocate against the Federation of Pakistan and the NAB chairman.

In that write petition, the Lawyers Foundation of Justice through its Chairman AK Dogar had prayed that enforcing the fundamental right of access to justice under Article 9, the court be pleased to declare that after promulgation of 18the Amendment and insertion of Article 270-A, the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999 has ceased to be the law and has become non-existent and dead letter.

The NAB had arrested him in a Rs14 billion Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case accusing him of awarding illegal contracts to his favorite company and the accountability court later had granted his physical remand to NAB for 10 days till October 16. The petition filed Under Article 199 of the Constitution says NAB Ordinance 1999 was promulgated by then President Pervez Musharaf and regularised by the parliament. Under Article 270AA(2) of the constitution, it further says, the ordinances which are in force at the time of 18th Amendment 2010 shall continue to be in force until altered, repealed or amended by the competent authority. Under Article 89 of the Constitution, an ordinance which is promulgated by the president will remain in field for 120 days and both the houses can extend the ordinance for a period of 120 days and such extension of the ordinance under Article 89(2) is for only once meaning that the Senate and the National Assembly now cannot regularise the ordinance envisaged under Article 270AA. Thus, both Article 89(2) and article 270AA are contradictory to each other which requires the attention of this court, the petitioner says.

“Moreover, the section 15 of NAB Ordinance 1999 provides ‘where an accused person is convicted of an offence Under Section 9 of this Ordinance shall forthwith cease to hold public office if any held by him, and further he shall stand disqualified for a period of 10 years’. No law can explain the disqualification of an existing member as clause P of Article 63(1) provides only the disqualification from being chosen through a law,” he states. “Even a disqualification from being chosen under clause P of Article 63(1) and explanation can be through a law other than an ordinance, so section 15 of NAB Ordinance cannot explain even disqualification from being chosen of a member of Parliament or Provincial Assembly.”

He states that section 15 of the NAB Ordinance is violative of the procedure laid down in Article 63(2) for the disqualification of an existing member of parliament. He quotes Article 248 of the Constitution saying that it provides the president, a governor, the prime minister, a federal minister, a minister of state, the chief minister and a provincial minister shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions: provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as restricting the right of any person to bring appropriate proceedings against the federation or province.

The petitioner states the law provides personal protection to the offices mentioned above so NAB Ordinance 1999 is violative of Article 248(1). He prayed that Section 15 of NAB Ordinance is contradictory to the explanation of Article 63(p) and Article 63(2) so it kindly be struck down. He finally prayed that the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif and consequential remand order dated October 6, 2018 are violative of Article 248 of the constitution and be suspended.