PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to submit a detailed report on its inquiry into the high-profile Malam Jabba land lease case and the subsequent case closure last year.

A bench consisting of Justice Roohul Amin Khan and Justice Ijaz Anwar expressed annoyance over the reports that the NAB had closed the Malam Jabba case in light of certain orders issued by the high court in Oct 2020 and observed that it had never issued such orders and instead, it had directed the bureau to continue with the inquiry.

It directed the bureau to produce reports about its inquiries into the alleged irregularities in the Billion Tree Tsunami project and appointments to the Bank of Khyber.

Annoyed at reports on inquiry closure, observes it never ordered that

The court ordered the production of those reports by Jan 20.

The bench fixed Jan 26 for the next hearing into a pro bono petition filed by six civil society members, including Dr Adil Zareef, Maimoona Noor and others, seeking the court’s declaration that the NAB has failed to act over the alleged irregularities in several major projects of the provincial government.

The petitioners claimed that the bureau was carrying out selective accountability and had put all cases against the ruling PTI’s members on the back-burner.

They requested the court to declare that the NAB had failed to perform duties in relation to cases of the erstwhile KP Ehtesab Commission, corruption in Billion Tree Tsunami project, illegal appointments to the Bank of Khyber (BOK) and Malam Jabba ski resort lease cases and that this failure was arbitrary and illegal.

They sought the court’s orders for action against the NAB officers over failure to perform duties about those cases under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

When the bench took up the petition, the petitioners’ counsel, Ali Gohar Durrani, said the bureau had closed the case related to the Malam Jabba land lease in Nov last year claiming the high court had formally stopped it from pursing the case.

Justice Roohul Amin observed that the court had never issued such orders and instead, it had directed the forest and tourism department to resolve the dispute over the ownership of the land, which was leased out to a private company.

The bench asked NAB senior prosecutor Azeem Dad when it ordered a halt to the inquiry.

It also observed that the bureau had earlier claimed that it had looked into the issue and would file a reference, but it later closed the case.

The bench asked the prosecutor to explain in its report to be submitted about the inquiry into the matter and the grounds for the case closure.

When asked by the bench, the prosecutor said 10 inquiries were conducted about the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation project, while a reference was also prepared, which was sent to the NAB headquarters along with other reports for approval.

He said the NAB had also referred the final investigation report about the Bank of Khyber appointments to the headquarters over which certain queries were raised.

The prosecutor said the bureau had submitted replies to those queries and as soon as the approval was given, it would include them in the report.

The respondents in the petition are the federation of Pakistan through the federal law secretary, interior secretary, NAB through its chairman, NAB executive board through its chairman, and NAB KP through its director-general.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022

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