ISLAMABAD: The noose seems to be tightening around incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) decided to reopen the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibya Paper Mills reference against him.
This will be the second ‘mega-corruption’ case against Mr Dar being investigated by NAB, following the reference filed against him in the wake of the Panama Papers case judgement.
“To meet [the] legal requirement in the light of the Supreme Court’s decision, NAB is reopening the investigation into the Hudaibya Paper Mills reference,” said an official press release issued by NAB on Wednesday.
“Ishaq Dar became an approver in the Hudaibya Papar Mills reference and after the quashment of that reference, a fresh investigation is being initiated against Ishaq Dar as an accused,” it said.
A NAB source said the bureau had initiated the fresh investigation in the light of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa’s opinion.
Finance minister says SC has not ordered case to be reopened, dubs NAB move illegal
In the minority judgement in the Panama Papers case on April 20, Justice Khosa had said: “Ishaq Dar was not arrayed as an accused person in the final reference… filed by NAB and his status in that reference was merely that of a prosecution witness when the said reference was quashed against the accused persons by the Lahore High Court and reinvestigation was barred… [the] quashing of that reference by the high court did not entail Ishaq Dar’s acquittal or smothering of any possibility of his trial on the said charges at any subsequent stage.”
The reopening of the reference was recommended by the Joint Investigation Team, formed by the apex court to probe the Panamagate allegations against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
Ishaq Dar, who is currently in London to receive medical treatment, also reacted to the NAB announcement. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the finance minister insisted that the Lahore High Court had quashed the matter and decided in his favour.
“The Supreme Court has not ordered a reinvestigation in this matter, therefore NAB’s announcement is illogical and illegal,” the statement said.
On Sept 20, NAB Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar moved a petition requesting the apex court to set aside the LHC judgement that quashed the NAB reference, as well as a separate application asking the court to condone the delay in filing the appeal.
If NAB succeeds in convincing the Supreme Court to accept its appeal, it will mean resurrecting the reference and filing it before the concerned accountability court for a final decision.
The reference accused the respondents of setting up Hudaibya Paper Mills Ltd to launder money under the cover of the Protection of Economic Reforms Act, 1992.
In the appeal, NAB argued that the high court verdict was not in consonance with the dictum laid down by the apex court, and contends that the referee judge was not competent to set aside the findings of the high court judge.
Separately, a NAB spokesperson said on Wednesday that of the 179 ‘mega-corruption cases’ it was investigating, the bureau has filed references in 96 such matters.
The spokesperson said the NAB chairman would personally hear people’s complaints on last Thursday of every month and had directed officials to take people’s corruption related complaints to their logical conclusion, failing which disciplinary action would be taken against the responsible officials.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2017