RAWALPINDI, Aug 23: On Thursday, the country’s top anti-corruption agencies continued to wrangle over jurisdiction in a 1,400 kanal land fraud case implicating property tycoon Malik Riaz and his son Ali Riaz.
Both the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) have filed petitions asking to try the property tycoon in their trial courts. On Thursday, the counsel for the accused and NAB again requested the Lahore High Court (LHC) to transfer the case to the NAB court from the remit of the Anti-Corruption Court (ACC) of Rawalpindi. The ACC Rawalpindi is scheduled to take up the land fraud case next on September 3.
The jurisdiction case was being heard by a division bench of the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi comprising Justice Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmed and Justice Chaudhry Mohammad Younis.
The court observed that the matter had been delayed unnecessarily and asked the parties – ACE, NAB and Aitzaz Ahsan, the counsel for Malik Riaz – to argue their case but the prosecutor general Punjab who was representing ACE requested for a three-week adjournment.
In November 2011, NAB had asked ACE to transfer the case, but ACE had challenged the order in the LHC. On December 26, 2011, LHC restrained both the anti-corruption agencies from proceeding further till the jurisdiction issue was resolved.
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan requested the court to decide the issue of jurisdiction on Thursday as he was ready with his arguments.
“I request the court to hear the matter today and in case adjournment is indispensable it should not be of more than one week,” he said.
“If the adjournment period was to be more than a week, then the ACC proceeding should be stayed,” he added.
Similarly, Barrister Saeedur Rehman, additional deputy prosecutor general NAB, also insisted for the speedy disposal of the case.
“I am also ready to argue the case at length and the court could decide the matter after hearing both sides,” he stated, and then pointed out, “the two important parties in the case, NAB and Malik Riaz, were willing to argue the case and the court is also ready to hear their arguments but it is the ACE Punjab who wants to delay the case.”
On the other hand, Sadaqat Ali Khan, prosecutor general Punjab representing ACE, told the court that they had never sought adjournment since the filing of the petition in November 2011.
“Due to my sickness I cannot appear in the court after a short adjournment, therefore I request the court to adjourn the hearing till September 10,” he explained.
On the suggestion of staying the case, he said: “The proceedings of the trial court cannot be stayed on the request of Riaz’s counsel because the court has rejected similar requests at four different points of times while hearing the petitions of Malik Riaz and the management of Bahria Town.”
“Some respondents in the matter have not filed their replies, and before passing any appropriate order the court should hear their points of view as well,” he added.
In the petition, ACE maintained that two different FIRs were registered against the Bahria Town administration for acquiring 1,401 kanals of land in Malik Pur Azizal near Rawat on fake identities and forged documents.
ACE has asserted that NAB’s intentions to take over the said land fraud case are mala fide and the accused are only trying to get absolved through a friendly prosecution by NAB.
The petitioner also stated that Malik Riaz and Ali Riaz, the two main accused, obtained interim bails from the Supreme Court on November 18 for three weeks and are yet to submit their surety bonds with the trial court.
The NAB petition, on the other hand, criticised the alleged faulty investigation of the ACE and said the proceedings of ACC including issuance of notices, arrest warrants for procuring the attendance of the accused persons of the land fraud case was illegal and was in violation to the mandatory provision of section 16-A of NAB ordinance, adding that under said section, NAB in November 2011 directed the ACE to transfer the said case to NAB and also filed an application to the ACC in this regard.It said the ACE instead of transferring the relevant record challenged the NAB directions in the LHC, and subsequently, the court restrained both ACE and NAB from taking any action in this manner and sealed the record of the case.
In the defence of the tycoon, his counsel Barrister Ahsan said Malik Riaz has acquired more than 40,000 acres across the country in a peaceful manner and the said case is about 15 acres only in which some revenue staff might be involved in irregularities.