ISLAMABAD: Attorney General Irfan Qadir opposed on Saturday the appointment of a one-man commission comprising Federal Tax Ombudsman Shoaib Suddle on the orders of the Supreme Court to probe the financial dispute worth Rs342 million between Dr Arsalan Iftikhar and property magnate Malik Riaz.
“Instead of giving a directive to the FTO to act as a commission and probe the allegations of graft, the Supreme Court should have first sought a prior consent from the office of the FTO, an office that enjoys a status similar to that of a judge,” Irfan Qadir said while talking to Dawn.
Usually the opinion expressed by the AG is given precedence by the judiciary since he is the chief law officer of the federal government under Article 100 of the Constitution, always enjoying a right of audience before the Supreme Court as well as the high court in all matters.
The AG acts as chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, the body that supervises the affairs of the legal fraternity in the country.
To further substantiate, Irfan Qadir explained that status of the FTO was like a judge and it was a judicial norm that the courts in their orders usually extend request to another court or a judge instead of given a direct order.
On Aug 30, a two-judge bench comprising Justice Jawwad Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain had entrusted Mr Suddle with the job of probing the allegations of financial wrongdoing allegedly by Dr Arsalan.
The investigation was handed over to the commission after taking it back from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) when Dr Arsalan levelled allegations of bias on a Joint Investigations Team (JIT) formed by the NAB.
Mr Suddle has been asked to probe into the culpability of Dr Arsalan, Malik Riaz Hussain, his son-in-law Salman Ahmed Khan and all those others who may be found involved in criminal activities with a direction to the commission to specify legal provisions and offences attracted in the case.
The commission also has to ascertain facts, connected with or ancillary to the determination of the matters to set the machinery of the state in motion so that all those who may have committed illegal acts are pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigour of the law.
Taking a divergent view on the Supreme Court’s verdict, the AG said the FTO was completely an independent organisation, instead of being subordinate to any institution in the country.
Mr Qadir reminded that the FTO enjoyed the power, similar to that of the judges of the Supreme Court or the high court, to punish any individual for committing its contempt.
Therefore no authority can outweigh the authority of the FTO by interfering into his affairs which is quite independent.
Mr Qadir expressed his surprise over issuance of a notice to him by the Supreme Court for not disclosing the fact that he had represented Riaz in the past.
“Everybody knows that I have never been useful to Malik Riaz or provided any benefit to him,” Mr Qadir claimed, saying he would consider challenging the order before a proper forum whenever he deems it fit.
When asked how he could challenge a verdict that has come on a review petition, he simply said the judgment then should be ignored altogether.
In its verdict the Supreme Court had directed its office to issue a notice to AG after expressing surprise over hiding the fact that the AG appeared as counsel for Riaz in the past.
The verdict had also observed that the court would not have tasked the AG with any responsibility in this matter if he had disclosed this information earlier.
Mr Qadir said that he had done a great favour to the judiciary by requesting the chief justice not to sit on the bench hearing Dr Arsalan case by highlighting Article 4 of the Code of Conduct for judges.
This way he saved the chief justice from being scandalised or ridiculed in terms of his office, he said.