ISLAMABAD: Senior bureaucrats seem unwilling to allow the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to arrest senior civil servants, seeing as it has virtually blocked proposed amendments which would enable the FIA to register cases against officers from grade 20 to 22.
Currently, FIA cannot book government officers above grade 20 for wrongdoing unless the Federal Anti Corruption Committee (FACC) permits them to register a case against them.
A senior government officer told Dawn that FACC consists of the interior secretary, the FIA director general and the interior ministry’s joint secretary and also has two co-opted members, who may be senior politicians.
According to documents seen by Dawn, the FIA had proposed amendments in its Inquiry and Investigation Rules in February 2011, in order to enable investigation officers to register and arrest officers of grade 22. However, the proposal was lost in paperwork somewhere and never followed up.
Ministry putting off rule change that would enable FIA to go after officers in grade 20 and above
On June 2, 2015, acting FIA DG Mohammad Khalid Qureshi had written to the additional secretary of the interior ministry, reminding him of the pending proposed amendment.
The letter states, “As a result of landmark judgment dated November 30, 1991 of Federal Shariat Court (FSC) … seeking permission for registering case against officers of BPS-22 was considered discriminatory ... In addition to the verdict of the FSC and the Supreme Court, the Hon’ble minister for interior had also directed during his 1st visit of FIA Headquarters to get these rules amended. In the backdrop of the orders of the minister, several meetings have been held on the subject. The last meeting of director law with the joint secretary ministry of interior was held on February 19, 2015.”
The letter further requested the secretary interior that, “It is, therefore requested that FIA Inquiry and Investigation Rules 2002 may kindly be amended to bring them in consonance with the verdict of the court and spirit of law.”
In the past, the Supreme Court had ordered former FIA director Hussain Asghar – during the suo motu hearing of a case on Haj corruption in 2010 – to arrest senior bureaucrats without the approval of the FACC.
Subsequently, Asghar arrested a joint secretary, the director general Haj, an additional secretary and even religious affairs minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi.
An FIA official, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that it was not just senior bureaucrats; the political government too was reluctant to empower the FIA to arrest senior officers.
Though, there are FSC and SC judgments regarding the registration of cases against senior bureaucrats, the government uses this ‘permission’ in certain cases, while others are referred to the FACC, where the FIA has to seek permission before initiating action against a senior bureaucrat, he said.
He also claimed that even the proposed amendments are not in accordance with the spirit of the various superior court verdicts.
For example, in order to register a case against a grade 20 officer, the proposed rules require FIA to seek permission from a joint secretary, who is incidentally also a grade 20 officer. In order to institute a case against a grade 21 or 22 officer, the investigation agency requires approval from the interior secretary, who is also a grade 22 officer.
“For the purposes of fair, transparent and across-the-board accountability, investigation officers such as FIA sub-inspectors should be given the power to initiate inquiries, register cases and arrest senior officers,” he suggested.
When contacted, Interior Ministry Director Media Mohammad Sarfraz, said he was not aware of the issue.
A senior ministry official, who is not authorised to speak to the media, said on condition of anonymity that the amendments in FIA rules had been forwarded to the law ministry.
“The law ministry had asked the FIA to come up with solid justifications for the proposed amendments,” he said, adding, “The ministry is of the view that since the FSC had issued a verdict in 1991, which subsequently was upheld by the Supreme Court, therefore, in 2002 when the rules of the FIA’s Inquiry and Investigation were framed, the matter should have been incorporated at that time”.
The official said that these proposed amendments were still under consideration and the rules may yet be amended soon.
Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2015