ISLAMABAD: Former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry came under the scanner of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday for spending a loan secured from the House Building Finance Corporation on the wedding of his son, Arsalan.

PAC member Ashiq Hussain Gopang of the PML-N raised the issue at the meeting and sought details of the loan. But HBFC’s managing director had left the meeting before the issue was raised.

The committee asked the finance division to provide details of the case in the next meeting and Finance Secretary Waqar Masood Khan assured it that it would be done.

During the hearing of Arsalan Iftikhar-Malik Riaz case in 2012, the ex-CJ admitted that he had spent the loan on the valima of Arsalan.

The case related to an alleged deal of Rs342 million between Arsalan and property tycoon Malik Riaz. In a statement submitted before the Supreme Court, Malik Riaz had accused Arsalan of promising him to help settle his cases in ex-CJ’s court.

The former CJ was criticised for ‘misusing’ the loan and applying for it even after attaining the age of 60 years.

When contacted, former HBFC chairman Siddiqul Farooq said a person could secure a loan even after attaining 60 years age if his son or daughter was the guarantor.

In a statement issued after the PAC meeting, Advocate Ahsanuddin Sheikh defended the ex-CJ and said Justice Chaudhry had never acquired a loan from the HBFC. It was, according to him, from the finance department for construction of a house.

He said government officials, including judges of the superior courts, could receive loans for construction and renovation of houses and it was deducted from their salary. After retirement, he said, the outstanding amount was deducted from their pension.

Mr Sheikh said Justice Chaudhry had cleared all outstanding dues.

He said the ex-CJ had been unnecessarily dragged in the PAC meeting, adding that there was a political motive behind the move.

Earlier, the HBFC informed the meeting that Rs14 billion loans had been disbursed among different applicants of which Rs4.6bn was stuck and efforts were being made for recovery.

The PAC took up audit paras related to the Pakistan Security Printing Corporation (PSPC) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

As per the PSPC audit report, the corporation reappointed three officers after their retirement, causing a loss of Rs12.3 million to the national exchequer.

The report pointed out that the SBP appointed Sara Bakhtiar as special counsel in 2006 through an ‘irregular contract’ which resulted in a loss of Rs16m. The SBP filled the said position without advertising it, the audit report said.

Finance Secretary Waqar Masood Khan informed the committee that the induction had been made at a time when there was a shortage of legal professionals in the SBP. The appointment had been made on the recommendation of retired Justice Mamoon Qazi, he added.

The committee directed the finance ministry to evolve a mechanism for making such appointments only in a situation of urgency.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2016

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