|Chief Secretary Siddique Memon|
KARACHI: Apprehension of arrest by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) finally took the provincial government’s top bureaucrat to the Sindh High Court that approved his interim pre-arrest bail on Wednesday.
Chief Secretary Siddique Memon, a career bureaucrat now in Grade-21, obtained anticipatory bail after NAB served on him a call-up notice for investigation against him for allegedly allotting six acres in Karachi illegally in 1992 when he was land utilisation secretary.
Scores of key provincial and city governments’ officials and politicians have so far secured pre-arrest bail fearing their arrest after NAB issued notices to them to join investigation against them. They include Sindh Minister Syed Ali Mardan Shah, administrator of Sindh University Employees Housing Society Barkat Ali Junejo, information secretary Zulfiqar Ali Shallwani and several officials of the provincial revenue department.
While granting pre-arrest bail to the chief secretary in the sum of Rs500,000, a two-judge bench also directed the NAB authorities to file their comments and put the federal government law officer on notice for a date to be later pronounced by the court office.
His counsel, Barrister Zamir Ghumro, contended that the land was allotted in 1992 and regularised in 2008 under the relevant laws. He submitted that the land was neither allotted by the chief secretary nor was regularised by him. He said that Mr Memon was posted as secretary land utilisation and when certain facts came to his knowledge he sent the matter to the lands committee which said it had already regularised the land.
The counsel said the chief secretary was issued a call-up notice under Section 19 read with Section 27 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 (NAO, 1999), on Aug 24.
He said the contents of the notice were highly defamatory and derogatory as it was mentioned that the competent authority had taken cognizance of an offence committed by the petitioner as ex-secretary land utilisation department.
Barrister Ghumro said the petitioner was asked to appear and record his plea along with record and information. “It is beyond comprehension that in absence of any plea as also record and information, the competent authority has taken cognizance of an offence allegedly committed by the petitioner,” he contended.
By way of essential background, he said, the land Sector 52-A, Corridor area, Scheme-33, Karachi East, was allotted for residential/commercial purposes with the approval of the chief minister in favour of Mohammad Ayub, son of Sher Khan, and the first instalment of Rs968,000 was deposited in the National Bank of Pakistan, district council branch, on Oct 13, 1992.
Later, he recalled, all allotments/grants made in violation of the law or ban at the rates lower than the market value from Jan 1, 1985 were cancelled.
However, he said, the cancelled grants were allowed to be regularised by a land committee, headed by a retired judge of the SHC.
The counsel said the land committee issued regularisation orders on settlement of payment of the differential cost by the allottee. He said it was apparent from the record that the NAB authorities were well aware of the fact of regularisation of land by the lands committee unanimously, yet in a bid to cause harassment, undue arrest and humiliation to the petitioner, the NAB issued the notice.
Barrister Ghumro said that since the petition fell within the definition of the accused as provided in Section 5-A of the NAO, 1999, he reasonably apprehended his arrest. He asked the court to grant pre-arrest bail to the petitioner.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2015