PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) time until March 15 to produce a report on its inquiries into the alleged irregularities in the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation programme, Malam Jabba ski resort land lease and Bank of Khyber recruitment.

A bench consisting of Justice Roohul Amin Khan and Justice Arshad Ali Khan heard a pro bono petition of Dr Adil Zareef, Maimoona Noor and four other civil society members praying it to declare that the NAB has failed to act over the alleged irregularities in several major projects of the provincial government.

Prosecutor Mohammad Ali and deputy prosecutor Azeem Dad appeared on behalf of the NAB, while Ali Gohar Durrani advocate represented petitioners.

At the outset, Justice Amin asked the NAB prosecutors about the report of a probe into the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation project.

Observes bureau officials are lethargic

NAB deputy prosecutor Azeem Dad replied that thebureau was working on the report, so it should be given more time to file it.

He said there was a little discrepancy in reports of the forest department and accountability body.

Mr Dad said there were 6,500 plantation sites in 27 districts of the province and therefore, the NAB would take little more time to complete the task.

He said the relevant NAB office was closed due to the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination campaign amid a spike in Omicron cases.

However, Justice Amin asked the accountability body’s staff tasked with probing the alleged irregularities in the BTT project.

The deputy prosecutor said three investigation officers were working on the matter and that the NAB could have assigned nine districts to each officer.

He said the bench had been hearing the case since October but the NAB had yet to produce even one report before it.

“You [NAB] people are lethargic,” Justice Amin said.

The bench also quizzed the accountability body’s prosecutors regarding the number of trees destroyed in forest fires and those uprooted by the people and damaged due to bad weather in different Malakand areas.

He said the NAB should carry out an audit on the matter.

The counsel for petitioner Ali Gohar Durrani pointed out that at one hand, there was water shortage while on the other hand, and forest department was planting Eucalyptus trees, which absorb too much water. He said that Eucalyptus plantation will further aggravate the water crisis.

Justice Amin also queried the NAB deputy prosecutor about the Malam Jabba land lease case.

Advocate Durrani told the bench that NAB’s has closed the inquiry on the basis of a court order. However, he added that court has not ordered the closure of the inquiry. Mr Durrani said that accountability body has also not submitted its inquiry report despite the bench orders.

Justice Amin directed the NAB prosecutor to clear the matter about the Malam Jabba land lease report. He observed that the accountability body should inform the bench how the land was allotted to the Samson Group and how it investigated the matter.

The bench directed the NAB to present a report by March 15 on its probe into the alleged anomalies in the Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation project, Malam Jabba land lease case and Bank of Khyber appointments.

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

They had 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 and Malam Jabba ski resort lease cases and that this failure was arbitrary and illegal.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2022

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