KARACHI: Without entertaining the application filed by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi seeking exemption from personal appearance, an accountability court has summoned the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader on April 15 in a fresh reference pertaining to alleged illegal appointment of managing director and deputy managing director of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO).

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed a reference against PML-N leader Abbasi and former petroleum secretary Arshad Mirza for allegedly appointing Sheikh Imranul Haq managing director and Yaqoob Sattar deputy managing director (finance) of the PSO in violation of rules and regulations.

Admitting the reference on March 26, the administrative judge of the accountability courts issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Mr Abbasi and Mr Mirza.

The judge also directed the NAB investigation officer to arrest the suspects and produce them before the court on April 10.

Counsel says former PM unable to appear in court due to lockdown

On Friday, when the matter came up before the administrative judge, Dr Sher Bano Karim, former premier Abbasi and former secretary Mirza were both absent.

Special public prosecutor Shahbaz Sahotra filed a report on behalf of the investigating officer submitting that non-bailable warrants issued by the court were sent to the NAB Rawalpindi headquarters for execution on both the alleged absconding suspects, Mr Abbasi and Mr Mirza.

But the NAB authorities reported that both of them had been granted protective pre-arrest bail by the Islamabad High Court till May 12, the prosecutor said and produced copies of the IHC’s bail orders.

The prosecutor maintained that summons issued by the court had been duly served on other suspects, Mr Haq and Mr Sattar, who were present before the court on bail.

Advocate Khawaja Naveed Ahmed filed applications on behalf of the former premier and the former secretary, stating that both the suspects intended to travel to Karachi to join the trial proceedings, but they were unable to do so as all means of transportation were suspended following ongoing lockdown due to spread of coronavirus. Therefore, he requested the judge to allow exemption to both suspects from personal appearance before the court till the next date of hearing.

The judge did not pass any order on the exemption applications due to the absence of Mr Abbasi and Mr Mirza.

The judge summoned them on April 15, when the exemption pleas would be taken up.

The judge also came down hard on IO Adnan Hafeez Abbasi when he sought more time to provide copies of documentary evidence to the suspects saying the same was still under process due to the lockdown.

In the last hearing, the judge had granted one week’s time to the IO to provide copies of the documentary evidence to all suspects, as under Section 265-C of the Criminal Procedure Code after filing of the reference.

The judge issued a show-cause notice to the IO to submit a written explanation as to why action may not be taken against him for not complying with the court’s s order.

In the reference, the federal anti-graft watchdog had alleged that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Arshad Mirza had misused their authority while appointing Sheikh Imranul Haq as managing director and Yaqoob Sattar deputy managing director (finance) of the PSO in violation of rules and regulations.

It added that the Supreme Court had, while hearing a case on July 14, 2018, ordered the anti-graft watchdog to probe the appointment of both the officers.

Later, an inquiry report was submitted to the Supreme Court. It reportedly said evidence showed that the appointment of Sheikh Imranul Haq was illegal and not made in a transparent manner. The report said there was evidence that Mr Haq had a conflict of interest with the PSO due to an LNG agreement with his former employer (Engro Corporation).

It accused Mr Haq of having misused his authority by promoting Mr Sattar to the post of deputy managing director within a month of his joining.

In the reference, NAB claimed that the suspects caused losses to the tune of Rs138.96 million to the national exchequer. Therefore, they allegedly committed offences punishable under Sections 9(a), (4), (6) and (12) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, it added.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2020