KARACHI: While an inquiry committee gave a clean chit to one of the two provincial ministers, the Sindh High Court on Thursday observed that it would determine whether petitions seeking disqualification of the two cabinet members were maintainable in view of the bar contained in Article 225 of the Constitution.

The petitions were filed on the basis of a report of former SSP of Shikarpur Dr Rizwan against provincial ministers Imtiaz Ahmed Sheikh and Saeed Ghani for allegedly harbouring criminals and seeking formation of a joint investigation team to determine the veracity of such allegations and their disqualification from holding office.

When the matter came up for hearing before the two-judge bench headed by Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed on Thursday, the advocate general of Sindh filed a report of a three-member committee headed by DIG Sukkur Fida Mastoi probing the allegations levelled by the former SSP Shikarpur.

It claimed in the inquiry report that the allegations appeared to be ‘absurd’.

The inquiry report further maintained that the secret report of former SSP Shikarpur was based on information collected from police record and informal/unknown sources and the committee could only verify information based on police record and did not attempt to ascertain authenticity of the contents based on unknown sources.

Inquiry committee report says allegations against Imtiaz Sheikh ‘absurd’

“MPA Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh is a political figure and exercises a lot of influence in his area. He also uses his influence in the police department in matters of posting, transfer. However, no evidence came on record to treat such influence as a criminal. No conclusive evidence is available on police record to substantiate the allegation that he actually harbours hardened criminals, dacoits, smugglers, arms dealers etc,” the inquiry report said.

The copy of the inquiry report was provided to the counsel for petitioners and the hearing was adjourned till Oct 14.

The bench in its order observed that its attention was drawn to Article 225 which stated that no election to the house or a provincial assembly shall be called into question except by an election petition presented to such tribunal and in such manner as may be determined by an act of parliament.

“However, we are aware that the bar contained in Article 225 is not absolute and may be displaced under Article 199 (1)(b)(ii) and Article 184(3),” it added.

The bench further said that the Supreme Court in its recent judgments held that facts about disqualification of a member of a house must be based on affirmative evidence and interference may only be contemplated in the presence of admitted facts and irrefutable direct evidence to justify disqualification.

The bench considered it appropriate to frame a preliminary question for determination whether the present petitions can be maintained/entertained in view of the bar contained in Article 225, it concluded.

The petitioners claimed that the then Shikarpur SSP had sent a report to the provincial police chief with regard to the alleged connection of Imtiaz Sheikh and his family and employees with dacoits and other criminals, accusing them of harbouring criminals of the area who were involved in heinous crimes.

They further contended that as per report of the former SSP, Saeed Ghani and his brother Farhan Ghani had links with criminal elements and drug smugglers of the area.

The petitioners also raised objection over the three-member inquiry committee and sought probe through a JIT only.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2020