PESHAWAR: Dismissing the appeal of the erstwhile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission, a single-member Peshawar High Court bench on Monday upheld the acquittal of former MNA Sardar Mohammad Mushtaq and 13 others by an Ehtesab court last year in a case of alleged irregularities during land acquisition for a government project.

Justice Ikramullah Khan pronounced that the appellant had failed to provide any reasonable grounds for setting aside the judgment of the trial court.

On April 23, 2018, an Ehtesab court had acquitted Sardar Mohammad Mushtaq, a former secretary of Workers Welfare Board Tariq Awan and 12 others who were charged by the KPEC of inflicting loss to the exchequer during acquisition of land for a project of the board.

The trial court had accepted two applications of Sardar Mushtaq, Tariq Awan and others under Section 265-K of Code of Criminal Procedure, which empowers the trial court to acquit an accused before conclusion of trial when there is no possibility of conviction.

Sardar Mushtaq among 13 cleared by Ehtesab court in land acquisition case

The KPEC had alleged that the accused persons had inflicted a loss of Rs137 million to the exchequer while acquiring land for construction of a Labour Complex, Haripur.

The accused also included former district officer revenue Latifur Rehman, former tehsildar Haider Zaman, former patwari Amjad Shehzad and some landowners.

Sardar Mushtaq was arrested by the KPEC on Sept 30, 2016 and was released on bail by the Peshawar High Court on Oct 5, 2016.

Sardar Nasir Aslam was the lawyer for Sardar Mushtaq and 12 others, whereas advocate Shahnawaz Khan represented Tariq Awan.

Sardar Nasir said Sardar Mushtaq was a respected landlord of Kot Najeebullah area and that the National Accountability Bureau had started inquiry against him in 2008 on the charge of selling his land to the WWB at exorbitant rates but closed it as the charges weren’t proved.

He added Sardar Mushtaq had developed his land and it was of much higher value than the one claimed earlier by NAB and then by KPEC.

The lawyer said several political rivals of Sardar Mushtaq had given applications to NAB in the same case but as the inquiry had already been closed due to lack of evidence, the NAB did not take any further steps in that regard.

He said his clients had earlier filed a petition in the high court when NAB was looking into the matter and the petition was decided in their favour by the high court on Jan 31, 2013.

The lawyer said a review petition filed by NAB was also dismissed by the high court in 2015.

He said in light of the high court’s decision, the NAB chairman had directed the NAB director general for KP for closure of investigation in the case.

He said once NAB had investigated the matter and closed the case, the KPEC had no authority to reopen it.

Shahnawaz Khan said the KPEC had been abolished by the provincial government and its cases were transferred to the anti-corruption establishment.

He said the KPEC had failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoings against the acquitted person and that there were no ground available for setting aside the trial court’s order.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019