The NRO mudslinging competition continues to go on, each party/individual boldly underplaying his/her own association with the controversial bill. What seriously amazes me, is that we still do not have access to the full and complete list of beneficiaries and are at the receiving end of confusing reports where the totals have seemingly fluctuated from a mere initial 600 to a now whopping 8000, seriously that’s one hell’uva discrepancy. While our two-timing politicians undermine their own headcount to say its between 34 to 300 victims, probably they hope to rely on the confusing mess to numb out the issue from the minds of the people of Pakistan. Such rampant corruption which as literally debilitated this nation, it is probably their right to know was eligible for this executive presidential pardon issued by Pervaiz Musharraf and its all the more important to know who cashed it in and what precisely was waived off, in the name of politically reconciliation.
The mudslinging is for now centered on some kingpins from the PPP but in the confusion it seems MQM is trying its damnedest to sneak under the media-frenzy hoping to walk away with mere statements like “National Accountability Bureau has no case against any MQM worker“. Karachi is a witness to the anarchy of the good ‘ol terror-filled days courtesy of the MQM. The time frame for pardoning of all criminal cases charged against them ironically range from 1986 and onwards.
It might serve us well to first look at the Section 2 of the NRO which centers exclusively around the criminal cases of the MQM
SECTION 2. Amendment of section 494, Act V of 1898
In the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898), section 494 shall be renumbered as sub-section (1) thereof and after sub-section (1) renumbered as aforesaid, the following sub-section (2) and (3) shall be added, namely:
“(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in sub-section(1), the federal government or a provincial government may, before the judgment is pronounced by a trial court, withdraw from the prosecution of any person including an absconding accused who is found to be falsely involved for political reasons or through political victimization in any case initiated between 1st day of January, 1986 to 12th day of October, 1999 and upon such withdrawal clause (a) and clause (b) of sub-section (1) shall apply.
(3) For the purposes of exercise of powers under sub-section (2) the federal government and the provincial government may each constitute a review board to review the entire record of the case and furnish recommendations as to their withdrawal or otherwise.
(4) The review board in case of Federal Government shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court with Attorney-General and Federal Law Secretary as its members and in case of Provincial Government it shall be headed by a retired judge of the high court with Advocate-General and/or Prosecutor-General and Provincial Law Secretary as its members.
(5) A review board undertaking review of a case may direct the public prosecutor or any other authority concerned to furnish to it the record of the case.”
This may seem to be quite a mouthful of legal jargon but PILDAT published a Legislative Review deciphering the NRO bill for the layperson and this is what they had to say trying to translate the Section 2 of the National reconciliatory Ordinance
Review of the Criminal Cases Registered because of Political Victimization:
The NRO has several beneficiaries. Section 2, apparently inserted at the instance of the MQM, amends section 494 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Prior to the amendment only the Prosecutors-General were empowered to withdraw pending criminal cases. Section 2 provides for Boards at the federal and provincial levels for review of criminal cases lodged between January 1, 1986 and October 12, 1999. In case the Review Boards find that the accused persons in these criminal cases including absconders have been falsely involved for political reasons or through political victimization the Boards can recommend withdrawal of such cases to the respective governments, and the concerned governments have been empowered to withdraw the same.
The NRO does not say that the respective governments are bound by the recommendations of the Review Boards. However, the power of the governments to withdraw pending criminal cases is subject to the approval of the concerned courts. The Federal Review Board is to be headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and is to include the Attorney General and the Federal Law Secretary as its Members. The Provincial Review Boards are to be headed by retired judges of the High Courts and are to include the Advocates General and/or Prosecutors General and the Provincial Law Secretaries as its members.
It is not clear who will select and appoint the retired judges to head the Review Boards but it is a critical point for an objective review because rest of the members are government functionaries. There were similar Review Boards constituted during the tenure of the first Benazir Government for review of cases of public sector employees wrongfully terminated during the Zia ul Haq years on account of their PPP affiliations. The recommendations of these Review Boards led to re-instatements and righting of wrongs in several hundred cases. Prima facie section 2 may survive judicial challenge. There could be a finding that the dates are arbitrary. Why all cases between January 1,1986 to October 12, 1999? Why not also similar cases in earlier and later periods? There could also be an argument advanced that the law should require the Review Boards to hear the complainants before making their recommendations and that the respective governments must record reasons in case they disagree with the recommendations of the review boards. These are some of the desirable amendments which legislators should consider when debating the legislation in the Parliament.
So the beauty of this Section in the NRO, lies in the fact that “the review board” can be constituted at the free will of any individual or party and it can then selectively do away with cases at their own discretion marking them as “political victimization” and eventually freeing upto 3800 criminal. Many may counter this argument saying that these cases were heard “according to a due process” and then political victimization cases were isolated and eventually dismissed – sadly we all know that this due process was only a fabrication to bend the law and the MQM must have surely appointed willing adjudicators who simply dismissed all evidence and discarded all such cases that had MQM party workers under investigation. The NRO ordinance sponsored by Musharraf did in fact help MQM and its supporters to circumvent the law for their own advantage, hence it must be on record that jailed criminals benefited and were immediately released
Karachiites have been a witness to the rampant terrorism that had waged on our streets during the 13 year period (1986 to 1999) – there were definitely no innocent political victims from within the MQM, but instead “the victims” were actually ‘the people of Karachi’ who actually bore the brunt of their ruthlessness. Courtesy of the in-famous Pervaiz Musharraf – 3800 hardened criminals were given the golden handshake and re-infused back into our streets to yet again terrorize us all over again
DAWN: The list showed that MQM chief Altaf Hussain had got withdrawn the highest number of cases against him – 72, including 31 on murder and 11 on attempt to murder charges.
Dr Farooq Sattar, the MQM’s parliamentary leader, occupied the second slot. A total of 23 cases were withdrawn against him, including five on charges of murder and four on attempt to murder.
The third biggest beneficiary appeared to be provincial minister Shoaib Bukhari, of the MQM, against whom 21 cases were withdrawn, including 16 on murder and attempt to murder charges.
The Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Babar Ghouri, Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad, Imran Farooq, Saleem Shahzad, Waseem Akhtar and former MNA Kunwar Khalid Yunus are other prominent MQM leaders who benefited from the NRO.
All these above name individuals hailing from the MQM leadership had been the hallmark of terrorism in the 80’s and 90’s. Criminals are criminals – be they be, direct murderers, or even charged with attempted / assiting to the murder must be taken to task – it is my basic belief that all 8000 people who took refuge from the NRO must be presented before an independent judicial body, presented with complete evidence and tried to the fullest extent in full public view. Knowing the political manipulators that have generally besieged our country – I also fear that this legal process might then subsequently be plagued with tremendous lack of evidence issues, as its possible that the evidences that lead to the initial conviction may also have also conveniently vanished, for which then I feel the judicial body must then scrutinize the case far more closely and in regards to criminal proceedings defer to the side of caution and keep these criminally inclined people off the streets
At the moment I feel all individuals who took advantage of the NRO bill must be forced to resign from their offices / or taken into immediate custody in regards to criminal cases and an immediate public inquiry be launched to prosecute them sadly, each one of these criminals has contributed into destroying Pakistan in some way or another, and simply should not deserve to be given even a second (or even a third) chance. The 180 million Pakistanis deserve to have the power to get rid of their society at least from these 8000 people, others we will handle with time. Let it also be known that the top of the NRO list is Asif Zardari and he must be prosecuted to the fullest and publicly