The order of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Qamar Zaman freezing the assets of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his three children and Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar was to remain in force only for a maximum of 15 days if he had passed it.
If such order was to further remain operative, it had to be endorsed by the concerned accountability court. But this decision was appealable before the high court. Apparently, it was because of the short life that a freezing order of the NAB chairman was going to have, Qamar Zaman left it to the court to take a decision on it after the references will be filed as per the direction of the Supreme Court on the basis of the Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.
Section 12 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, says that any order of seizure, freezing, attachment or any prohibitory order made by the NAB chief shall remain in force for a period not exceeding 15 days unless confirmed by the court where the reference shall be sent by the NAB chairman.
It further says that the order of the NAB chief or the court shall be effective from the time of passing or proclamation in a newspaper, widely circulated and dispatched at the last known address of the accused either by registered post or courier service or electronic media as the court may deem proper having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case.
Qamar Zaman also left it to the court to determine whether or not it is appropriate to place the names of the ousted premier, his children and Dar on the Exit Control List (ECL). However, it is a hard fact that none of them plans to flee from Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, who has gone to London to be with his ailing wife, is also returning to Pakistan in the next couple of days to resume his political activities.
The regional offices of the NAB in Lahore and Rawalpindi had recommended to the chairman to order freezing of the assets of the Sharif family and the finance minister and putting their names on the ECL. However, it is the discretion of the NAB chief to accept or ignore such proposal.
The NAO says the NAB chairman or the accountability court trying an accused, may, at any time, if there appear reasonable grounds for believing that the accused has committed such an offence, order the freezing of his property, or its part whether in his possession or in the possession of any relative, associate or person on his behalf.
If the property ordered to be frozen is a debt or other movable property, the freezing may be made by seizure; or by appointment of receiver; or by prohibiting the delivery of such property to the accused or to anyone on his behalf; or by all or any of such or other methods as the court or the NAB chairman deem fit.
If the property ordered to be frozen is immovable, the freezing shall, in the case of land paying revenue, be made through the district collector in which the land is situated, and in all other cases by taking possession; or by appointment of receiver; or by prohibiting the payment of rent or delivery of property to the accused or to any other person on his behalf; or by all or any of such methods as the NAB chief or the court may deem fit.
If the property ordered to be frozen consists of livestock or is of a perishable nature, the NAB chairman or the court may order its immediate sale and the proceeds of the sale may be deposited with the NAB chief or the court, or as either may direct as appropriate.
The order of freezing shall remain operative until the final disposal of the case by the court, and in the event of the acquittal of the accused, shall continue to remain operative for a period of ten days after receipt of certified copy of the order of acquittal or release by NAB. After that, it shall be subject to an order by the court in which an appeal, if any, is filed.
The court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to entertain and adjudicate upon all claims or objections against the freezing of any property. Such claims or objections shall be made before the court within 14 days from the date of the order freezing such property. The court may for sufficient cause extend the time for filing such claims or objections for a period not exceeding additional 14 days.
The accused or any other aggrieved party, whose claim or objection against freezing of property has been dismissed by the court, may, within ten days file an appeal against such order before the high court.