Reopening Hudaibya Paper Mill Case
The Federal government has directed FIA to reopen the Hudaibya Paper Mills case. In a statement issued by the Federal Minister of Information, Mr Fawad Chudry on Twitter said that the legal team gave a detailed briefing on the case to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister felt satisfied with the briefing and directed the relevant authorities to reopen the Hudaibya case again.
Now when the government is going to reopen the case again, many still have no fair idea of its origin, scale and implications.
It’s about alleged fraud of over 1,242 million, an amount that makes it bigger in scale than the Panama Papers case. The case started in March 2000 when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) authorities moved a reference against Hudaibiya Papers Mills. Besides his other relatives and associates, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his two children Maryam and Hussain are among the accused. Leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shabaz. Former Finance Minister Mr. Ishaq Dar was also nominated in the NAB’s reference for opening fictitious (benami) foreign currency accounts to help the family commit fraud. Dar turned approver in the case, but later retracted his statement given against the Sharifs claiming it was extracted under duress.
General Syed Muhammad Amjad, the chairman of NAB, filed a reference on March 27, 2000, under Section 18(g) of the National Accountability Ordinance. Another reference under the same provision of the law was filed by the next Chairman NAB General Khalid Maqbool, on November 16 2000, which referred to the early one as interim reference. The reference states that they are against, “M/S Hudaibya paper mills limited and its director for the commission of an offence under Section 9 of the NAB ordinance.
A little over a year after filing the reference, the additional public prosecutor NAB requested that the reference at present be adjourned sine die. The Accountability Court accepted the NAB’s request and indefinitely adjourned the reference that is “adjourned it sine die”
In 2008, the case was taken up again but was adjourned because the application moved to reopen it lacked the signature of the then NAB Chairman. The trial court did not issue summons to be moved to it.
On October 17, 2011, the Sharif family filed a writ petition in Lahore High Court and sought the quashing of the reference. A two-member division bench gave a split decision. The case was referred to a referee judge, who supported the division bench judge favoring closing the case. Hence, a ‘clean chit’ was granted to the accused family and the case was closed in March 2014.
After the Lahore high court judgment in favor of the accused family. The bureau didn’t file an appeal at higher fora against the Lahore high court verdict. The issue was raised again during the Panama Papers case proceeding before a larger bench of the Supreme Court. So the bench held that the case could not be re-investigated as long as the decision of the High Court is in the field. The NAB then challenged the verdict of the High Court, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court through its judgment reported as [PLD 2018 Supreme Court 296]. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, declined leave to appeal and upheld the judgment of Lahore high court. The National Accountability Bureau again didn’t file a review against the judgment of the Supreme Court.
Now the question is, what is the legal position of the case in the current scenario? Will the government get anything out in re-investigation of the case? Can it create new challenges for the Sharif family? Our Constitution article 13(a) provides that “No person shall be prosecuted or punished for the same offence more than once. So in the light of this Constitutional provision, courts cannot adjudicate upon a matter which has already been decided by the court of the country. Now, this issue is settled by the apex court and it cannot be re-trailed and re-investigated.
Senior advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan and former President Supreme Court’s bar association, Mr Raseed A Razvi in his TV interview terms government efforts useless and said its nothing but just as “flogging a dead horse” This is a dead horse, no matter how much you whip it, it will not stand.
By: Waqas Ahmed, Law Student at Abdul Wali Khan Universty Mardan
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