ISLAMABAD: Minister for Ports and Shipping Ali Zaidi acted “irresponsibly” when he presented an unsigned Joint Investigation Report (JIT) on Lyari gang leader Uzair Jan Baloch in the National Assembly, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said on Wednesday.

“The report presented by Ali Zaidi was contrary to the original JIT report that had been signed by its all seven members and had been presented before Sindh High Court (SHC),” he told the press after he appeared before National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigators in connection with a multi-billion rupee solar lights case.

Mr Shah said Mr Zaidi claimed he had obtained the original JIT report, but in a television programme on Wednesday, he revealed that someone on a motorcycle handed him the documents at the gate of his residence.

“A person comes and gives the report [to him] on motorcycle and [Mr Zaidi] waves it in the National Assembly the next day. You saw how he could not defend himself in a programme yesterday. If he had told us before [how he obtained the report] then we might not have released it but laughed instead,” he said.

”If he had said that some responsible man gave it to him and now he was revealing it, it might have made sense. But this was not appropriate for a man who is a member of the National Assembly and a sensible person to reply on a document given to him by an unknown person on a motorbike,” he added.

A day earlier, Mr Zaidi had said that the JIT comprised six members — one person each from the Special Branch and the Crime Investigation Department, from the Sindh government, as well as officials from the Intelligence Bureau, Rangers, Inter-Services Intelligence and MI, from the federal government.

He claimed, however, that the two members from Sindh had not signed what he claimed was the original report, which he said included findings that Uzair Baloch was working at the behest of senior PPP leaders including party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

Mr Shah refuted Mr Zaidi’s claim, saying that the JIT had seven members, not six, and that the report submitted to the Sindh Home Department was signed by all of them. The same report was submitted to the SHC in a sealed envelope, read by the judges and returned to the provincial government.

Mr Shah said there was only one original JIT report but several reports were being circulated online. “Since there is ‘no official seal’ on these reports, they have confused many people,” he added.

Asked why his government had not released the original report, Mr Shah said the provincial government’s legal department had advised him against making the report public because people involved in the gang’s activities could be alerted.

He claimed that Mr Zaidi wanted to favour the accused individuals by releasing the report.

“I believe he is in some way trying to give favours to suspects [named in the JIT]. He acted very irresponsibly in a very important matter,” he said.

He said that the Sindh government finally released the original report because they “were under political pressure.”

“It was in the courts. I talked to the attorney general and told him we would have to make these reports public because we were under political pressure,” he said.

Mr Shah pointed out that the report Mr Zaidi presented to the media mentioned one of the six members as belonging to the Crime Investigation Department, which was renamed the Counter Terrorism Department in 2015.

To a question, he said that it was up to the federal government to decide whether an inquiry would be conducted into the matter. He added that if Mr Zaidi had harmed the case against Baloch, proceedings would be conducted according to the law.

Mr Shah said the ruling PTI attempted to malign the PPP using photographs and videos of Uzair Baloch and his accomplices saying they would join the PPP.

He said: “PPP is a democratic party; Zia tried to destroy it, he couldn’t. Musharraf tried to destroy it, he couldn’t. What can these people do?”

Mr Shah said he appeared before NAB in the same solar lights case for the third time and answered questions posed by NAB investigators.

He said he had asked the bureau whether he could send answers to the questionnaire through the mail, but NAB refused the request and asked him to provide the answers himself.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2020