The Sindh High Court (SHC) has noted that the country’s prime anti-corruption body – the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – filed a hiring reference against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in order to stop him from criticising the PTI led federal government.
Abbasi is a vocal critic of the government and the intention behind filing a NAB reference against him is to silence him, said a division bench of the SHC in its detailed order on the pre-arrest bail application of Abbasi and former secretary petroleum Arshad Mirza.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Arshad Mirza had approached the SHC for obtaining pre-arrest protective bail in a NAB reference pertaining to appointment of managing director and deputy managing director at the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) – the state-owned oil marketing company – in violation of rules.
The SHC on September 3 granted protective bail to the former premier and the former secretary petroleum. Issuing a detailed order on Friday, the court noted that in order to get a pre-arrest bail, it has to be established that the investigation is based on mala fide.
It said the PML-N senior vice president has been openly criticizing the government policies. Referring to the LNG case, it said Abbasi is also facing a reference in Islamabad and has spent seven months in custody in connection with that reference, it noted.
The order said it cannot be ruled out that NAB filed the reference for political reasons. The reference is filed to silence the former prime minister. The Supreme Court has also noted in the Khawaja brothers case that NAB is taking one-sided actions, it added.
The court also asked the NAB prosecutor as to how many references the accountability watchdog has filed against members of the ruling coalition. It said NAB officials could not answer this question.
It said interestingly NAB did not include Nawaz Sharif in reference despite the fact that he was the sitting prime minister when the allegedly illegal appointments were made.