Difference that counts

Published June 12, 2003

LAHORE, June 11: The difference between dates of theft of five rare manuscripts from the Lahore Museum has saved its former officiating director and four others from major penalty, sources claimed on Wednesday.

The inquiry conducted by museum director Dr Liaquat Ali Niazi had recommended major action against Dr Anjum Rehmani, research officer Shoaib Ahmad, security officer Ghulam Ali and security guard Salamat Ali.

But Chief Secretary Hafeez Akhtar Randhawa, acting as the authority and museum’s board of governors chairman, censured Mr Rehmani and exonerated the three others after a personal hearing on Tuesday.

The five manuscripts had been stolen in June, 2001, and an inquiry against eight officials was initiated under the Punjab Removal from Service (Special powers) Ordinance. The inquiry officer exonerated the four others in his voluminous 563-page report.

The stolen manuscripts included two folios scribed on deer skin belonging to the Hazrat Imam Husain’s period, three Hamayal Sharifs and one Mathnavi Shireen Khusrau scribed in 1881AD in Persian in Nastalique style of writing.

The inquiry had intially been entrusted to former secretary of education department Sibtain Fazle Halim but later Dr Niazi was appointed inquiry officer.

Thirteen charges, including that of the theft of manuscripts, were levelled against Mr Rehmani. Of them, three were not proved.

The charges were handling the theft of manuscripts as an ordinary issue, improper security arrangements, no action in earlier thefts of Rs310,000 in cash and a computer system, purchasing electric goods from a fake company established at the residence of his (Mr Rehmani) messenger and bypassing executive committee channel.

According to the sources, it was pleaded before the chief secretary that Mr Rehmani had promptly informed the authorities concerned about the theft of the manuscripts and taken all necessary measures.

They claimed that Mr Rehmani’s point of view was accepted as the inquiry report mentioned the date of the theft as June 28, 2001, at one place and June 29, 2001, at another. Mr Rehmani’s point of view was that he had intimated the quarters concerned on June 29 and had not taken the affair lightly.

About action on earlier thefts it was maintained that it had not been taken because the inquiry committees formed to look into them had not fixed responsibility on anyone.

The sources said after clearance of the allegation of carelessly handling the theft of the five manuscripts, the plea for the other allegations was also accepted by the chief secretary as of secondary nature.

But, they said, the chief secretary took a notice of the purchase of electric goods from the residence of Mr Rehmani’s messenger and refused to accept that the supplying firm was owned by his father. Mr Rehmani must have known this factor, he reportedly declared. — Intikhab Hanif

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