ISLAMABAD, July 1: The Supreme Court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Monday to complete investigations into the Rs40 billion Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) scam in 10 days without taking into consideration ranks, position or political clout of the accused.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had taken notice on the basis of media reports about investments made by the EOBI in the private sector without approval of its board of trustees.
According to the reports, huge investments were made in DHA schemes, Crown Plaza was purchased in Islamabad, two 4,300cc Prado cars were bought for personal use of EOBI officers, two controversial plots were purchased in Sukkur, investment was made to develop a cricket ground in Islamabad, seven plots were bought from the CDA, 40 kanals and 16 marlas of land was purchased in Lahore, four floors of Plaza Hotel were purchased in Lahore, investment was made for construction of a seven-star hotel in front of the Lahore airport, M-9 Motorway was constructed and a Rs200 million land was purchased near the Karachi airport.
The EOBI provides compulsory social insurance. It extends old-age benefits to insured persons or their survivors. Under the EOBI scheme, insured persons are entitled to avail benefits like pension after retirement, invalidity pension in case of permanent disability, old-age grant for an insured person who attains the age of superannuation but does not possess the minimum threshold for pension, and survivor’s pension in case an insured person dies.
Secretary of the Human Resource Development Abdul Khaliq told the court that the media reports were based on facts, although certain chain or links were missing. He said requests had been made to the authorities concerned to put the name of former EOBI chairman Zafar Iqbal Gondal on the exit control list (ECL).
He said currently the EOBI was without a chairman because Mr Gondal had been sent back to his parent department – the auditor general of Pakistan.
The court ordered Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhry to strengthen the FIA by allowing it to use service of officers from other departments, if required, to complete the inquiry into about 80 transactions made on the instructions of the former EOBI chairman.
“Serious efforts have to be made to collect concrete evidence, instead of spoiling the same,” the chief justice observed.
The directive came after FIA Director General Saud Mirza informed the court that former director general investment Wahid Khurshid and retired Col Ali Hassan Mirza and his daughter Maham Majeed, both EOBI officers, had been arrested.
He said EOBI officers Mohammad Qasim Parvez and Iqbal Daud would be arrested soon after the expiry of their transit bail. The court ordered its registrar to procure orders about the bail granted by the Islamabad High Court and the Hyderabad bench of the Sindh High Court.
Mr Mirza told the court that the FIA had the evidence that a considerable amount of money paid for purchasing different properties came back in the accounts of Zafar Iqbal Gondal as kickback and commission.
Huzaifa-ur-Rehman, who had reported the corruption on a private TV channel, assured the bench that he would hand over documentary evidence of corruption in the EOBI. Mr Rehman informed the court that he had been receiving threats from certain quarters. The court ordered the interior secretary to take adequate measures for protection of the journalist.
Secretary Abdul Khaliq told the court that he had issued directives on May 7 this year not to purchase land or other property without adopting a transparent procedure and approval of EOBI’s board of trustees.
He placed on record a list of 18 properties purchased privately from the DHA in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Most of the transactions, prima facie, appeared to have taken place without following transparent procedures and Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules, the court said.
DHA’s Director Town Planning Tariq Kamal informed the court that over 400 kanals of land had been given free to Bahria Town under an agreement signed on June 2 last year for building an expressway connecting Islamabad and the DHA valley and then Bahria Town sold 321 kanals to the EOBI.
According to the agreement, Bahria Town was responsible for development and marketing of plots.
Mr Kamal admitted that the DHA did not benefit from the agreement and said that he was removed when he objected to it and informed DHA Chairman Lt Gen Javed Iqbal about it.
He told the court that he had been receiving threats from Nawaz Khokhar after which he sent a letter to Malik Riaz of Bahria Town on Dec 8.
The court directed the interior secretary and inspectors general of Islamabad and Rawalpindi to look into the matter.
The case was adjourned to July 12.