ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top court on Thursday stopped authorities from transferring officials involved in “high-profile” cases in different investigating agencies while seeking record of any new appointments and transfers made in the last six weeks.
The development took place only a day after the Supreme Court took suo motu notice on apprehensions that criminal justice system may be undermined by people in positions of authority.
According to news reports based on court documents, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said last week it did not want to pursue a Rs16 billion money laundering case against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his two sons three days before a special court in Lahore was scheduled to frame charges against them.
The FIA denied, however, it was withdrawing the case against the prime minister in a statement subsequently released to the media.
“We want to ensure the sanctity and integrity of the criminal justice system and rule of law,” Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial remarked while chairing a five-member larger bench to hear the case.
The court barred the authorities from withdrawing any high-profile cases while seeking a response from the government on transfers and appointments recently made in the FIA.
Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf tried to defend the transfers and postings, saying there might be “genuine reasons” behind them.
The court also issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau, director general FIA, secretary interior and others to explain their respective positions over the issue.
It directed the attorney general to ensure all record and evidence in high-profile cases were preserved and protected from any tampering.
“We hope the federal government will help us by explaining all these matters,” the chief justice said.
“We have been seeing such news for the last one month,” he continued. “We want to know about these matters because they are impacting the rule of law.”
The chief justice pointed out that an investigation officer, Dr. Rizwan, who was probing cases against Prime Minister Sharif and his son Hamza, was transferred and later died of heart attack.
“Why were the officers investigating the case against Hamza Shehbaz removed,” the chief justice asked. “We have to ensure independent and transparent working of the prosecution branch.”
The chief justice clarified the court proceedings were not meant to embarrass or hold anyone responsible, but “to uphold the rule of law.”
The court adjourned the case until May 27.