ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Monday issued bailable arrest warrants for a co-accused in the Royal Palm Golf Club corruption reference.

Judge Mohammad Bashir issued the warrants for private contractor Ramzan Sheikh because of his absence from the court proceeding and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to ensure his presence at the next hearing in the second week of December. The court also summoned three foreign witnesses — Dato Mohd Kasa bin Ada Aziz, Anuar bin Adam and Aldian bin Adam — to appear before it.

The court also sought a reply from the prosecution for separating the case against the three foreign witnesses — Malaysian nationals — as they have not been joining the proceedings since April this year when the case was filed.

Former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retired Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi, who served as railways minister during the regime of military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, retired Lt Gen Saeeduz Zafar, retired Maj Gen Hamid Hassan and retired Brig Akhtar Ali Baig were nominated as accused in the Royal Palm Golf Club, Lahore, corruption reference. Other accused are Iqbal Samad Khan, Khurshid Ahmed Khan, Abdul Ghaffar, Ramzan Sheikh, Pervaiz Qureshi, sponsors of the golf club and five other officers allegedly involved in illegal award of lease of the club.

During the hearing, the defence counsel claimed that NAB had dragged the ex-army officers in the corruption reference following the media campaign that criticised the anti-graft body for being lenient in cases against former army officers.

According to NAB investigation, the railways had in 2001 offered the lease of its golf club in Lahore for 33 years for which several firms had submitted bids. During the bidding process, the lease period was illegally enhanced from 33 to 49 years. Moreover, the land offered for lease was also illegally increased from 103 to 140 acres by demolishing the Railway Officers Colony. Hence, the precious piece of land of the railways was leased out illegally in a non-transparent manner to benefit the leaseholder and owner of Mainland Hasnain Pakistan Ltd, a private firm.

It has been established during the NAB investigation that the accused had committed corruption through misuse of their authority by illegally awarding 49-year lease of the golf club in 2001 to the private firm for commercial purposes, causing a loss of Rs2.2 billion to the national exchequer.

The reference against the four army officers had been filed after the Islamabad High Court observed that retired military officials could not hide behind the army’s accountability process.

Interestingly, the retired army officers had been summoned by NAB in 2012 for recording their statements, but no action was taken against them.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2018

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