ISLAMABAD, Nov 22: Another chairman of the National Accountability Bureau has again come under a cloud. The Supreme Court ordered on Friday prosecution under the accountability law of NAB’s new Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry for abusing his authority as a civil servant and also incriminated a whole bunch of top bureaucrats, some of them still serving, as well as a senior PPP politician responsible for the crime warranting cases against them.
The damning indictment came in a 52-page detailed verdict in the Rs1.68 billion National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) scam as well as contempt of court charges against senior government officials, including the NAB chairman.
Authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the judgment said that the December 2009 appointment of Ayaz Khan Niazi as NICL chairman was illegal, unwarranted and contrary to the Insurance Ordinance 2000. It also pointed finger, though prime facie, at former commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim of the PPP, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry (then additional commerce secretary), former commerce secretary Suleman Ghani, former establishment secretary Ismail Qureshi and former acting principal secretary to the prime minister Nargis Sethi for their involvement in the scam.
According to the verdict, they are liable to be tried under Section 9(a VI) of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 which suggests punishment of jail term of up to 14 years for the holder of a public office for misusing his authority to gain any benefit or favour for himself or any other person.
However, the verdict puts the NAB chairman in a tight position because besides having been found guilty of the offence, he has been asked to initiate cases against the other accused under the NAB law.
“His situation is irreconcilable because on the one hand he has to proceed against others but, on the other, he himself is involved,” senior Supreme Court lawyer Waqar Rana said. The fitness of things would demand that he resign forthwith from his post because “Caesar’s wife has to be above suspicion”, he said.
The verdict against Qamar Zaman, who will also be prosecuted separately for committing contempt of court, drew an immediate reaction from Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah of the PPP who described it as an insult to parliament.
Soon after the verdict, Qamar Zaman, who was appointed as NAB chairman on Oct 10 after hectic consultations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the leader of opposition, went on a long leave.
The appointment was also challenged by PTI chief Imran Khan in the Supreme Court.
Earlier, former leader of opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had challenged the appointment of retired Justice Deedar Hussain Shah as well as retired Admiral Fasih Bokhari to the post.
Deedar Shah’s appointment was set aside by the Supreme Court on March 10, 2011, and that of Fasih Bokhari on May 28 this year.
Former NAB chief Nawid Ahsan had to resign after the apex court had on Dec 16, 2009, declared the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) illegal and expressed displeasure over the conduct and lack of proper and honest assistance and cooperation to the court.
Referring to the April 18, 2011, transfer of then additional director general retired Capt Zafar Ahmed Qureshi, who was overseeing the NICL investigation, to the National Police Foundation (NPF) as managing director, the verdict implicated former FIA director general Malik Muhammad Iqbal, former establishment secretary Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, former principal secretary to the prime minister Khushnood Lashari and former FIA director in Lahore Waqar Haider for creating hurdles and hampering the smooth and transparent investigation entrusted to Zafar Qureshi.
They will also face charges under Section 9(a VI) of the NAO for allegedly letting Ayaz Khan Niazi and others to benefit from the public money looted from the NICL through non-transparent transaction.
Qamar Zaman, Abdul Rauf Chaudhry, Khushnood Lashari, Malik Muhammad Iqbal and former interior minister Rehman Malik will also face contempt charges separately.
Rehman Malik is already facing a contempt charge for interfering in the NICL investigation.
The verdict regretted that the FIA had failed to recover Rs420 million from accused Mohsin Habib Warraich as well as Moonis Elahi, son of former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, for whom £1.138 million was deposited with EFG Private Bank Ltd, London, in the name of a company owned by him and another account in the name of Beenish Khan (wife of Mohsin Habib Warraich) in Barclays Bank London.
The court directed the NAB chairman to take necessary steps to recover the outstanding amount and also arrest Mohsin Habib Warraich and NICL officials Amin Qasim Dada and Khalid Anwar as early as possible.