PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has ruled that the issuance of warrants by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for the arrest of opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader retired Captain Mohammad Safdar was tainted with mala fide as he was one of the hard critics of the government and NAB.
A bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Syed Arshad Ali declared that if the asset probe against Mr Safdar was examined, it showed the element of mala fide on part of the NAB chairman and its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa director general for his arrest.
The court had accepted on Apr 27 a petition of Mr Safdar, who is also the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, confirming his pre-arrest bail in an ongoing inquiry of the NAB, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, against him for allegedly holding assets beyond means.
He had approached it after the NAB chairman had issued warrants for his arrest in Oct last year.
Court directs PML-N leader to cooperate with anti-graft body during asset probe
In its 13-page detailed judgment on the petition, the bench has observed that besides the numerous call up notices issued to the petitioner (Mr Safdar), a call up notice had also been issued to him from NAB office at Lahore for his appearance in respect of assets belonging to him for their being disproportionate to his known sources of income and that simultaneous proceedings under the NAB Ordinance too smacks of mala fide on the part of respondents towards the petitioner.
“From the averment of the writ petition, available record including CM No 849-P/2021, moved subsequently and from arguments of learned counsels for the petitioner, it reasonably appears that the warrant issued against the petitioner for his arrest is tainted with mala fide on part of the NAB as he is not only one of the hard critics of the present government bit also of NAB,” the bench ruled.
The bench directed the petitioner to fully cooperate with the respondents in the inquiry proceedings or investigation and if on any occasion it is found that he has failed to cooperate in the inquiry or investigation proceedings then in that eventuality the NAB will be at liberty to approach this court for recalling of this order.
The bench discussed in detail several call-up notices issued to the petitioner and his continuous appearance before the combined investigation team (CIT).
It observed that another example of mala fide of the respondents towards the petitioner was evident from the fact that in the year 2018 many call up notices were issued to him whereas in the following full year of 2019 not a single call-up notice was issued by the respondents to him.
“Learned counsel of the petitioner, in this respect stated at the bar that after his release on bail from prison in the month of Sep 2018 in Avenfields Apartment Reference, the petitioner, a critic of the present government, did not take a jibe at the government policies for the full year and as such, he was spared but the moment he started criticizing the government, the NAB machinery was mobilised by the government of the time against him, which issued him many call up notices and ultimately his warrants of arrest,” the judgment states.
The court declared that the point of the petitioner was repelled by NAB additional deputy prosecutor general Azeem Dad stating that the NAB as an independent and autonomous body always acted on its own and is pursuing the case against the petitioner purely on merit and there was no element of any mala fide on part of the respondents. He also refuted that the NAB got any direction from some other quarter while acting under the ordinance.
It observed that apart from responding to the NAB queries through various documents, another pronounced aspect of the case was that the petitioner was regularly attending this court and had not misused the interim order whereby ad-interim pre-arrest bail was granted to him and that aspect of the case too could not be overlooked while deciding the petition.
The bench observed: “If a constitutional court, in the light of record, reaches to a conclusion that mala fide reflects from the intended NAB’s move to arrest an accused and the latter also succeeds in setting up a prima facie case in his favour then in such like situation, it is primary duty and legal obligation of the court to grant relief to the citizen so that he could be protected from the unjust and arbitrary arrest.”
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2021