Lawyers’ bodies smell a rat in FBR change of guard

Updated 08 Jul 2020

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PBC, SCBA demand independent, neutral probe into properties of Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s wife, children. — DawnNewsTV/File
PBC, SCBA demand independent, neutral probe into properties of Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s wife, children. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The premier lawyers’ bodies have smelled a rat in the sudden change of guard at the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and expressed serious concern over the ad hoc appointment of a new chairman at this critical juncture.

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) — the regulatory body of lawyers — and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) — the prestigious lawyers’ body — on Tuesday demanded that the government reverse its decision to remove the FBR chairperson or as alternative appoint a senior independent officer, who should not be below the rank of grade-22, to ensure an independent and neutral investigation into the offshore properties belonging to the wife and children of Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court.

Otherwise, the bar leaders warned, the legal fraternity would not accept the investigation and any report in this regard and would strongly resist the same.

The federal government had on July 4 appointed Muhammad Javed Ghani as chairman of the FBR for a period of three months — the fourth head of the revenue department since the PTI had come to power in July 2018 — after removing Nausheen Amjad from the post. She was made federal secretary of national heritage and culture. Ms Amjad was transferred three months after her appointment as FBR chairperson.

PBC, SCBA demand independent, neutral probe into properties of Justice Isa’s wife, children

PBC chairman Abid Saqi and SCBA president Syed Qalb-i-Hassan expressed serious concern over the abrupt removal of Ms Amjad and ad hoc appointment of Mr Ghani as FBR chief and that too for just three months.

In a statement, the two bar leaders expressed their surprise and apprehension over the top level change in the FBR at this critical juncture when the Supreme Court had referred the high-profile case of Justice Isa’s wife to the FBR for investigation. “This, prima facie, amounts to manipulating and adversely influencing the investigation,” they said, expressing a strong apprehension over the ill-motivated government move to remove the FBR chairperson.

They said Ms Amjad had not been replaced by a permanent chief that gave strength to the apprehension that the government was not willing to let the FBR proceed with the matter pertaining to properties of Justice Isa’s wife independently and maintaining its neutrality which, in a way, amounted to contempt of the court.

The Supreme Court had on June 19 quashed a presidential reference against Justice Isa and ordered the FBR chief to furnish a report under his signatures to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) secretary, who happens to be the SC registrar. The report should consist of details of the proceedings conducted by the Commissioner Inland Revenue after seeking explanation from the wife and children of Justice Isa about the nature and source of the funds for the three properties in the United Kingdom — No. 40, Oakdale Road, London E11 4DL; No. 90, Adelaide Road, London E10 5NW; and No. 50, Coniston Court, Kendal Street, London W2 2AN.

The secretary would place such report before the SJC chairman who would have the report laid before the SJC for consideration, action or proceedings, if any, in relation to Justice Isa, as the council may determine, the SC order stated.

The receipt of the report, the presentation of it before the council and the action/proceedings, if any, or orders or directions, if any, as may be taken, will be deemed, for the purposes of Article 209 of the Constitution, to be in exercise of the suo motu jurisdiction, the judgement explained.

The order said that if within 100 days from the date of this judgement, no report was received by the SJC secretary from the FBR chairman, he would inform the chairman of the council accordingly and may require an explanation why the report has not been received. If no reply is received, then the secretary will bring such fact to the attention of the SJC chairman who may direct that the matter be placed before the council for consideration or action as the council may determine. The action/proceedings, if any, will be initiated by the SJC for purposes of Article 209 of the Constitution, in exercise of suo motu, the judgement explained.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2020