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ISLAMABAD: Special prosecutor of the National Accountability (NAB) Imran Shafique, who was pursuing high-profile cases, tendered his resignation from his office on Tuesday amid controversy that he was forced to leave the bureau.

In his one-month advance resignation notice, the lawyer cited “personal” reasons for quitting the job, though he earlier told some private TV channels that he was being forced to resign for pursuing the case of assistant to the prime minister on overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, aka Zulfi Bukhari, against the wishes of the anti-graft watchdog.

A NAB spokesman, however, said Mr Shafique was not pursuing the case of Zulfi Bukhari. He said the lawyer appeared in the Islamabad High Court on behalf of the bureau in the case due to the absence of another NAB prosecutor. He said Mr Shafique had to give one-month advance resignation notice to the bureau because his one-year contract was set to expire on Dec 31.

Bureau rejects impression of his removal

Interestingly, Mr Shafique was an assistant of former IHC judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and was running his chamber before joining NAB as a special prosecutor. Mr Siddiqui was recently removed from his office on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council for maligning the Inter-Services Intelligence in his speech at a Rawalpindi Bar function.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Shafique said his contract was going to expire on Dec 31, but since he had been pursuing mega corruption cases in such circumstances, NAB normally renewed contracts automatically. The prosecutor did not elaborate on the reasons of his resignation, but said: “When the client is not satisfied with a lawyer’s working, the lawyer should himself part ways.”

Besides representing NAB in the case pertaining to the controversial appointment of Zulfi Bukhari as PM’s special assistant, Mr Shafique was pursuing several other high-profile cases, such as the corruption reference against former finance minister Ishaq Dar, which subsequently led to confiscation of Mr Dar’s assets, and Pamana Papers leaks.

In his resignation letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn, Mr Shafique said he joined NAB in May 2017 and became a part of the bureau’s team in the Panama Papers case and a leading prosecutor in a reference against the former finance minister. “I was also assigned the task of conducting appeals against acquittal of Asif Ali Zardari and to represent NAB in mega scam of MCB privatisation before the Lahore High Court.”

The special prosecutor said his service with NAB had been a great and profound learning experience which was widely acknowledged not only by the bench and the bar but also by defence counsel. “On account of some personal reasons, I find myself unable to continue with NAB any further, thus constrained to tender instant resignation. The instant resignation may kindly be considered as one month advance notice,” he added.

“For now, I am eager to join the bar as an independent professional lawyer to play my part in easing the frustrations faced by ordinary litigants,” he said.

When contacted, the NAB spokesperson said the lawyer had not submitted his resignation to the bureau but posted it on his Facebook account. “Till the closing of office timing, we had not received his resignation officially,” he said.

The spokesman rejected the impression that the prosecutor was removed for pursuing the Zulfi Bukhari case against the wishes of NAB and said Mr Shafique was not a regular lawyer in the case, though he did appear in court on a temporary basis in the absence of other counsel.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2018