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SAHIWAL: The district police and Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Pakpattan chapter are investigating, what they believe, a racket involved in leaking and helping candidates solve National Testing Service (NTS) paper for the posts of constables in Pakpattan on Jan 28.

Investigators confirmed that there was enough evidence to establish the paper leak, and its solution by three candidates in Vehari district a day before the actual test. Their agents had transported the candidates to the exam centre themselves to ensure the three did not reveal the details of the test to anyone.

The NTS had conducted a written test for the post of constables at Government Post Graduate College, Pakpattan on Jan 28. Rumours spread in and around the city that three candidates had paid between Rs200,000 and Rs300,000 to solve the leaked paper before the test day. Police arrested the three candidates, identified as Ghulam Rasool, a resident of 23/SP; Ikram, a resident of Qila Diyyar Singh; and Waqas Ikram, a resident of Pakpattan city.

Complainant Muhammad Riaz, the then City station house officer, told Dawn that the three candidates had been interrogated in the light of the first information report (FIR) registered on Feb 4 under sections 420, 468, 471 of the PPC and 3/4 of University Act 1999.

FIR lodged on Feb 4; institutions confused over jurisdiction to probe case

Police also interrogated Amjad Kamal, a resident of Bari Rakha; and Qurban Ali, a resident of Kutchehry Road, who revealed that they had been approached by a few agents to solve the paper earlier, but that they had refused to pay the amount.

On the three candidates’ information, police included in the FIR and interrogated Faheem Ramzan, Ajmal Joiya, Murad Chishti, Sajjad Hussain Shah, Akash and Ghulam Farid Joiya for leaking the paper. Later, complainant Riaz also nominated Muhammad Arshad, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of Punjab Highway Patrol Lodhran, in the case, who is under custody and being interrogated.

This correspondent conducted several background interviews with investigators to determine the reason for delay in solving the paper leak case. Sources said that after investigation, police handed over the case to local ACE office as it was discovered that most of the suspects belonged to Punjab Highway Patrol. But ACE officials were confused about their jurisdiction to solve the case as they claimed they could only investigate public servants, while investigators discovered several people involved in the paper leak from various cities of Punjab, including Pakpattan, Lahore and Vehari as well as Abbotabad.

An investigator on condition of anonymity said there was no clarity as to who had the jurisdiction to investigate the case among Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crime Wing, the ACE or the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) where the NTS was registered as a legal entity. Investigators have demanded formation of a high-level joint investigation team on the issue involving FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing, the ACE, Punjab Highway Patrol Police, personnel from NTS Pakistan.

“Yes, there is a racket involved in leaking of NTS papers and it’s running in several districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” a senior police official in Pakpattan told Dawn.

Investigation officer of the case, Sub-Inspector Muhammad Tariq, told Dawn that police had ample evidence of leakage of the paper, its solution, and sharing of answers through Whatsapp. Complainant Riaz said this had been confirmed through call data records of the main suspects and the candidates.

Chaudhry Ghazanfar Tufail, circle officer at ACE Pakpattan, who is investigating the case now, said so far the department had interrogated around 25 suspects and most of them belonged to the Punjab Highway Patrol. He claimed call records had confirmed leakage of the paper, and that when the case was transferred to them most of the nominated had secured bails, including the ASI.

A senior police official told the media that they still had three to four people in custody and were interrogating them.

Sources said that one of the members of the racket had previously even managed to get his brother selected on a key post by leaking the NTS paper to him.

Tufail told Dawn that although investigation was underway, the department had still not been able to establish jurisdiction of the case. He said district police and ACE had also involved NTS officials in the investigation, but he did not reveal details of those questioned.

“The question is if the paper was leaked through NTS employees or hacked by some experts,” he said. A source said the FIA would need to be involved in the case to establish the source of leak, as it would require use of technology.

Dawn contacted NTS headquarters in Islamabad three days ago, but received no response till the filing of this report.

FIA Lahore Deputy Superintendent of Police (Legal) Monam Bashir told this correspondent over the phone that the agency could investigate the case under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 if police forwarded the case to it and shared the call records data as well as evidence of information shared through WhatsApp between the candidates and their agents. He said only the police could get FIA involved in the investigation, adding that the ACE had no authority to involve the agency directly into corruption cases; they had to write to the Interior Ministry to seek FIA’s help.

Questions arise as to what was causing the delay in solving the case when the FIR had been registered on Feb 4, how had the main suspects managed to secure bails from lower courts, why Pakpattan police had not involved FIA in the case so far, why police handed over the case to the ACE when even its regional director said the NTS was under federal government so they needed the FIA to investigate it?

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2018