ISLAMABAD: The hearing of the rental power projects case in Courtroom-1 turned out to be a battle of words and wits on Thursday as the National Accountability Bureau tried to hold firm in the face of insistence by the Chief Justice that the Supreme Court could monitor the progress of investigation in cases.
The back and forth continued throughout the day without much legal progress but towards the end a dramatic scene ensued when a NAB official stood up and asked the Chief Justice that he himself should quit, instead of asking the bureau’s officers to resign.
“You are saying that I should be removed but I say you should be removed,” exploded NAB’s Additional Prosecutor General Rana Zahid Mehmood while pointing towards Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who was heading the three-judge bench.
At the outset of the proceedings the court asked about the arrest of the accused in the RPP cases, including Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, but the order issued late in the afternoon before adjourning the hearing till Jan 23 included no directive in this regard.
It asked NAB Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari to provide a comprehensive report on the investigation in all the RPP cases.
It was a report by the additional prosecutor general which irritated the court most.
“This amounts to an outright overturning of the March 30, 2012, judgment in the RPP case,” the chief justice said, adding that had he been the NAB chairman he would have removed the prosecutor.
Rana Zahid had categorically stated in his report that NAB had not found convincing evidence sufficient to file references based on two RPP cases submitted by the Rawalpindi office.
When members of the bench were about to leave the courtroom after concluding the hearing, he stood up to explain his position but in the process lost his temper and ended up hurling aggressive remarks against the chief justice.
The chief justice, however, kept his calm and simply suggested to him not to become so personal.
“You have made us dysfunctional and abuse us every day,” the additional prosecutor general said, adding that he had earlier been kicked out of a high court and “now you are saying I should be removed again from NAB”.
“You have been dysfunctional twice, you should know how it hurts. Only God can take me out of this world.”
Earlier, the NAB chairman asked the court to call him Admiral Bokhari and not Mr Bokhari. “Kindly show me the respect as I am giving you the same,” he said, adding that he was fully cooperating with the court.
“Sorry, Admiral Bokhari,” retorted the chief justice, seemingly in a sarcastic tone.
About the RPP case, the chairman said he never monitored or interfered in the investigation process and left it to the investigators. He said he was the chairman and not an investigator.
Explaining why cases had not been finalised against the accused, he said the primary task of the bureau was to recover the plundered money which was being done, with some residual payments still coming since some organisations differed over the amounts involved.
The next step, he said, would be to determine the criminality against the accused, including the ministers involved in the matter, for which the investigating teams had to go through a lot of evidence to substantiate the allegations. “The process is ongoing,” he assured the court.
About the reason for not filing references as recommended by the regional office, the chairman said two inquiries had been put up before the NAB executive board but “we felt that the inquiry was not complete to the extent that a final shape could be given to the references”.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed said the recovery of money and initiation of cases against the accused should have been done simultaneously since the evidence could be destroyed by the influential accused.
The chairman said he deliberately separated the two procedures to get the money back.
He said he possessed certain secret information but would not divulge it in the open court since it could alert the accused.
He assured the court that references would be filed in due course against the culprits and that he would not allow any interference in the investigation by any political entity.
The chairman also expressed his surprise over how an interim report had ended up in the court, saying the premature report had created confusion and it was a violation of NAB’s standard operating procedures. He wondered how information from the internal files was reaching the court.
About the removal of three officers, he said he had deduced that they had not been performing up to the expectation of the apex court because they were facing contempt of court charges.
Prosecutor General K.K. Agha requested the court to allow him to argue that it had no jurisdiction to supervise NAB investigations but the bench cited the examples of the Haj scam and Bank of Punjab cases and the Tehelka case in India.