ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Thursday issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau while hearing three appeals for acquittal filed by two former directors general and an investigation officer of NAB in a reference pertaining to the alleged misuse of authority in a multibillion rupee land scam case.
NAB’s former directors general Khurshid Anwar Bhinder and retired Col Subh Sadiq and investigation officer Mirza Shafiq are facing a reference for registering a case against Khalid Rashid, a former real estate agent of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), on the basis of a ‘frivolous’ application allegedly backed by real estate entities.
They filed three separate appeals in the Islamabad High Court, seeking their acquittal under a presidential ordinance that amended the National Accountability Ordinance and redefined the allegation of “misuse of authority”.
According to the accused officers, the reference had never alleged that they had taken kickbacks or any financial benefits and, therefore, they could not be charged with the offence of the misuse of authority for violating the standard operating procedure.
Three officials are involved in multibillion rupee land scam
An accountability court recently dismissed applications of the three former officers, observing that they were not entitled to taking benefit of the presidential ordinance on NAB’s laws.
According to the accused, NAB did not dare to touch influential beneficiaries despite the fact that the Supreme Court had ordered the bureau to proceed against all of them. They further said that in order to avoid contempt proceedings in the apex court, NAB made its former officers a scapegoat in the case.
The Supreme Court had on May 27, 2015 ordered NAB to investigate allegations levelled by a citizen, Mr Rashid, against senior NAB officials for ‘illegally’ taking over an inquiry into a dispute over a piece of land worth billions of rupees from the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE).
According to details of the case, Mr Rashid had a dispute with Bahria Town over the acquisition of land for the DHA in the suburbs of Rawalpindi. In 2011, the ACE recommended action against certain officials of the revenue department of Rawalpindi for allegedly favouring Bahria Town in the dispute.
However, Baqir Raza, an employee of Petrotrade, filed an application with NAB against Mr Rashid.
As a result, Mr Bhinder, the then director general of NAB, transferred the inquiry from the ACE to NAB and assigned the matter to NAB investigation officer Mirza Shafiq.
Mr Shafiq nominated Mr Rashid and Mohammad Azam, an additional director of the ACE, as the accused in the case and filed a reference against them in the Accountability Court of Rawalpindi in 2012.
In the meanwhile, Baqir Raza disowned the application on the basis of which NAB had transferred the inquiry from the ACE.
In the application submitted to the NAB chairman, Mr Raza claimed that the earlier application had been prepared by a director of Petrotrade and some officials of Bahria Town. In the application, Mr Raza stated that he had been working as a cashier with the firm and was unaware of any land dispute between the parties.
When this information was put before the Supreme Court, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja ordered NAB to probe the allegations against its own officers.
Mr Rashid then filed another petition in the Supreme Court, alleging that the probe committee did not call anyone from Bahria Town or Petrotrade, hence the inquiry was flawed.
After preliminary hearing, an IHC division bench, headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah, issued notices to NAB and adjourned the hearing to April 22.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020