NAB always leaves principal accused untouched, says SC

Published January 7, 2021
The Supreme Court observed that the anti-graft watchdog always punishes people accused of petty offences and leaves untouched the principal accused named in corruption references. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website/File
The Supreme Court observed that the anti-graft watchdog always punishes people accused of petty offences and leaves untouched the principal accused named in corruption references. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court pulled up the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday, observing that the anti-graft watchdog always punishes people accused of petty offences and leaves untouched the principal accused named in corruption references.

A three-judge bench made the observation during the hearing of a bail plea filed by Dinshaw Hoshang Anklesaria, a businessman facing corruption references in the Bahria Icon Towers case. The bench accepted the bail plea, but asked the tycoon not to leave the country.

The bench consisted of Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.

The judges wondered why those invo­l­ved in mega corruption remained at large, but those who committed petty offences were arrested and sent behind bars.

Grants bail to accused in Bahria Icon Towers project case

The Supreme Court advised NAB to amend section 9 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) if it wanted to “impose its own will instead of going by the rules”.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial said it was shocking that NAB’s performance was being questioned at different forums, the Senate among them, adding that the bureau should have the courage to face all odds instead of returning favours to those who had extended favours to them.

Since NAB officials do no homework before attending hearings, it is ultimately the judiciary which faces criticism if an accused walks free, the bench said.

“Not only ordinary people but also the Supreme Court has a negative impression about NAB,” a judge remarked.

The bureau’s prosecutor general explained that an individual was considered a convict even after entering into a plea bargain and the bureau could take any action against such an individual even after he had exercised the option of plea bargain.

NAB’s assurance

The apex court granted bail to Dinshaw Anklesaria after Syed Asghar Haider, the National Accountability Bureau’s prosecutor general, assured it that the bureau would not oppose the grant of bail.

The bench asked Mr Anklesaria to cooperate with the NAB authorities during investigations.

The prosecutor general told the court that NAB had asked Zain Malik, the son-in-law of Malik Riaz Hussain of Bahria Town, to make up his mind on the option of a plea bargain by Feb 15. “The bureau will move against him in case he does not exercise the option.” The Supreme Court seemed unimpressed with the explanation and asked NAB officials not to put the court on an unending wait.

Rasheed A. Razvi, who is representing Mr Dinshaw, later told Dawn that Zain Malik’s plea bargain request was pending since Nov 2019 and it was the seventh such request in corruption references.

The accountability courts had granted the six previous plea bargain requests, he said. “A request for plea bargain should be decided within a month or two.”

Dinshaw Anklesaria has been charged by NAB with the occupation of an amenity plot reserved for Bagh-i-Ibn-i-Qasim.

According to the petitioner (NAB), Galaxy Construction owned the two Bahria Icon Towers — one of them 62-storeyed and the other 42-storeyed — being raised on the plot.

The bureau said the total area of the projects was almost doubled to 17,336 square yards from the original 9,346 square yards through illegal means.

In its defence, Galaxy Construction said that in 2007-08 it had entered into a verbal agreement with Bahria Town to sell 50 per cent of its shares and allow the latter to have its own chief executive in GC. It was agreed that the project would be developed by Bahria Town and that the developer would retain executive authority for bank accounts and filing of returns through its CEO and a nominated company secretary.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2021

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