ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said the Supreme Court may appoint any investigating body other than a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for a probe into the alleged allotment of huge lands around Pakpattan in 1986 in violation of a high court order.
Inquiry methods employed by JITs were not very pleasing, explained Mr Sharif when the apex court on Tuesday gave him an option to pick one of four investigation bodies to identify those behind the matter after he denied that he had approved a summary some 32 years ago for allotment of 14,394-kanal land by de-notifying a 1969 notification of the Auqaf department.
Mr Sharif was summoned by an SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, to clear his position about the allotment of over 14,394-kanal land and about the Waqf property attached with the shrine of Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Pakpattan Sharif.
When the ex-premier denied that he had approved any such summary, the chief justice allowed him to choose one of the investigation agencies namely anti-corruption department, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau and JIT to probe the matter.
Ex-premier allowed to pick investigating body for inquiry into allotment of Pakpattan land
Mr Sharif, who was called to the rostrum in a packed courtroom, said the bench could appoint any department but not the JIT whose investigation methods were not very nice.
The bench, however, left it to Mr Sharif to decide which investigation body be appointed to probe the matter but remarked on a lighter note that he should not appoint his counsel Barrister Zafarullah Khan as inquiry officer since the latter had become political. While pointing towards the lawyers representing Nawaz Sharif, the chief justice cautioned that they should not get Mr Sharif trapped in an issue about which he did not know.
The SC had taken up a case that being the chief minister of Punjab, Nawaz Sharif in 1986 had ordered withdrawing a notification of Dec 17, 1969 and allegedly allotted huge lands of Auqaf around Pakpattan to Dewan Ghulam Qutab in violation of the then high court order.
The former prime minister explained that the matter was 32 years old but he was confident that he did not approve the summary for withdrawal of the 1969 notification.
The chief justice said the land was declared Waqf property by the Auqaf department — a decision that was subsequently endorsed by the then district and sessions judge as well as the Lahore High Court. But all of a sudden, a notification was issued in 1986 in which then Punjab Auqaf chief administrator Mohammad Yousaf Khan in exercise of the powers conferred upon him under Section 7 of the Punjab Waqf Properties Ordinance 1979 withdrew the notification No 3(4) Auqaf, published in the official gazette on Jan 1, 1970 regarding taking over of 14,394 kanals and three marlas of land attached with the shrine of Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar Sahib, Pakpattan Sharif, Sahiwal district.
The chief justice observed that the then chief minister was said to be the man behind the withdrawal of the notification about Waqf lands by approving the summary, nullifying the orders of the superior court.
“You are not responsible if you did not notify,” he said. But there must have been someone behind it, the chief justice observed, adding the court could order to conduct the investigation to find out those behind the de-notification and real beneficiary.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, a member of the SC bench, recalled the then secretary to the chief minister Javed Bokhari had written in the summary that the chief minister had seen and approved it.
At this, Mr Sharif reiterated that it was a 32-year-old record and he did not recall the facts since he had not seen the record, maybe his counsel had seen it. “I did not recall any such summary came to my office or the office of secretary for de-notifying the earlier notification,” said Mr Sharif.
The CJP said it could be presumed then that the entire episode was a fraud. Mr Sharif said the Auqaf department never brought the matter to his or his secretary’s attention or sent any fresh summary to his office.
The chief justice then recalled how in the appointment of Ata ul Haq Qasmi, the then principal secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad had told the court that Mr Qasmi was appointed after seeking permission from the prime minister. “Against this background, we can assume that the 1986 notification was also issued with the approval of the chief minister which require investigations to find out the real culprit and to clear you,” CJP Nisar observed.
“I could not have agreed more,” Mr Sharif said, adding that it seemed something went wrong at the lowest level.
The chief justice observed that Mr Sharif had been a very vigilant chief minister and it was not something small but involved a huge chunk of land.
On a lighter note, the CJP asked the former prime minister why he wanted a large number of leaders with him in the courtroom. Mr Sharif said he had asked only senior leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz namely Raja Zafarul Haq, Ayaz Sadiq and Khawaja Mohammad Asif to attend the proceedings.
In his earlier submission, Mr Sharif had requested that the notice issued to him be discharged in the interest of justice. He said from the record as collected from the paper books submitted by the Punjab government before the Supreme Court, it transpired that the Auqaf department, Punjab, vide its notification of Jan 17, 1961 took over the administration, control, management and maintenance of the shrine.
Subsequently, with the approval of the then governor of Punjab, Auqaf department, Lahore, issued another notification on Dec 17, 1969 for taking over additional land that later resulted into litigation between the parties.
The reply stated that Dewan Ghulam Qutabuddin, Sajada-Nashin of the shrine of Baba Farid Ganjshakar, moved the application in June 1986 to the then prime minister through the governor of Punjab, stating therein that the disputed property taken over by Auqaf department, Lahore, was his personal and ancestral property, therefore the same be returned to him. The application of Dewan Ghulam Qutabuddin was ultimately set down in the office of chief minister Punjab.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2018