ISLAMABAD: The management of a private housing society has accused the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of taking revenge against the society for filing complaints against the bureau’s officials.

The Ministry of Commerce Employees Cooperative Housing Society (MCECHS) filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), alleging that since the society management had filed a complaint against NAB officials for alleged blackmailing, the bureau had in response arrested all top office-bearers of its management committee.

The petition says NAB was vindictive to the office-bearers of the housing society and “misused their authority by initiating an inquiry regarding same allegation [with intent] to frustrate the bail order of high court and also to take revenge from the office-bearers of MCECHS by filing of application against the NAB officials.”

The petitioner earlier this year filed a petition before the IHC against two senior NAB officers for allegedly blackmailing the management committee of the society.

Society officials arrested in de-novo inquiry of case already pending before accountability court, petition says

NAB had on July 14, 2015 received complaints against the management committee of the society and initiated an inquiry into embezzlement in development expenditures, bogus allotment of plots, embezzlement in purchase of land and in grant of work.

According to the petition, NAB arrested several office-bearers of the society consequent to the inquiry. The bureau filed a reference against them in an accountability court and the accused obtained bail after arrest from IHC on March 13, 2018.

The petition says that while the reference against the accused was pending before the accountability court and the accused persons were regularly attending the court’s proceedings, NAB started a de-novo inquiry against the same persons for the same allegations.

It contends that as per the law, NAB could have filed a supplementary reference against the accused persons and may move for cancellation of bail before the high court to re-arrest the accused persons.

It pointed out that NAB “violated the principle laid down by the Honourable Supreme Court in PLD 2018 SC 595, because once the cognizance is [taken] regarding an offence, that all offences relating to the same transaction shall [be] merged into one and no separate or fresh investigation can be initiated... in the present case the respondents instead of filing supplementary reference initiated a fresh investigation regarding same offence, same transaction and same issue with an [intent] to arrest the petitioners to teach [a lesson for] filing complaint against the NAB officials, hence the mala fide, illegalities, misuse of power, high handedness and disrespect of the court orders is established against the respondents.”

The petition says that the petitioners and other members of the management committee collaborated with the investigation and produced all the relevant record and information to the investigation officer as and when required and demanded by NAB and appeared before the bureau whenever they were called.

On Aug 2, the society committee was called by the investigation officer and they were arrested on the same allegations which were made earlier and which were the basis of the NAB reference.

The petition contends that after taking them into custody, NAB produced them before an accountability court in Islamabad, which accepted the application for handing over the custody of the accused persons to the bureau without examining the factual record.

The petition requests the court to declare the arrest of the accused persons, and the accountability court’s acceptance of a physical remand, illegal.

IHC had admitted the petition for regular hearing and will take it up in the second week of September.

Despite repeated attempts, NAB spokesman Nawazish Ali Asim could not be contacted. However, an official of NAB’s prosecution said since it was a court matter, the bureau would file a comprehensive reply to the petition after due deliberations.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2018