ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate the possible role of its former chairman, retired Admiral Fasih Bukhari, and other officers in extending undue benefit to property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain in a land scam.
“NAB is directed to investigate the matter of the application submitted by then chairman NAB under section 16-A(a) of National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) before the Special Judge Anti Corruption,” said a 12-page verdict announced by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja.
The court also ordered the special judge anti-corruption to proceed with the trial of the case. The ruling, which was authored by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and reserved on Aug 31, disposed of an appeal by the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE), Lahore, challenging the transfer of the case to NAB from the special judge anti-corruption which was investigating the fraudulent transfer of 1,401 kanals to Bahria Town in 2009. The land is situated at the revenue estate of Khanpur and Malikpur Azizal in Rawalpindi.
Fasih Bukhari allegedly transferred a land scam case from special judge anti-corruption to NAB
Initially, when ACE was probing the matter it submitted a challan to the special judge anti-corruption Rawalpindi on Nov 1, 2011. But Bahria Town moved an application with the then director general NAB on Nov 21, requesting him to investigate the matter by withdrawing it from the anti-corruption court.
Consequently, an application was moved on Nov 21, 2011, to the special judge anti-corruption by NAB under the signature of its then chairman Fasih Bukhari with a request to transfer the case to the administrative judge accountability courts, Rawalpindi. The same day, NAB also wrote to the ACE directing it to hand over the record of the land scam.
Later, NAB exonerated Malik Riaz and his son Ahmed Ali Riaz though proceedings against the revenue officials continued for their alleged collusion in transfer of the land.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court ordered NAB to investigate whether its former chairman and other officers had misused their official position by writing the application to the special judge anti-corruption.
The judgment noted that Bahria Town in its letter to NAB had admitted that the land had been illegally transferred to it by property dealer Mohammad Ashfaq on fake and forged documents. But there was nothing on record to confirm the same and the unsubstantiated statement made in the application was accepted by the then chairman NAB.
The court observed that NAB should not have exonerated the nominated accused (Malik Riaz and his son) and said the purported attempt to do so should be considered as of no legal effect. However, both will be entitled to defend the cases, the judgment added.
As these are old cases, the verdict said, “We expect that the special judge anti-corruption will proceed with them expeditiously.”
Since Fasih Bukhari is no longer the head of NAB, if the bureau deems it appropriate it may submit a fresh application for the transfer of the case to an accountability court constituted under the NAO. “And if such an application was submitted, it shall be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law and upon the transfer of the case to an accountability court it will be deemed to be a reference under section 18 of NAO.”
Referring to the repeated requests for adjournment of the case by Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the counsel for Bahria Town, the court observed that though it was the right of the party to be heard and represented by a counsel, it cannot be permitted to defeat the cause of justice by indefinite procrastination as the Bahria Town respondents had done.
Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2015