ISLAMABAD: A special court of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday issued bailable arrest warrants for three witnesses for being absent during the trial of the former Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) chairman, Zafar Hijazi, in connection with the alleged tampering of record to close the case against Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) owned by the Sharif family.

The witnesses were two directors and a former SECP commissioner.

Judge Raja Asif Mehmood also rejected the application of the SECP’s chief compliance officer, Maheen Fatima, seeking recording of her testimony afresh and discarding a video of the commission’s meeting held on June 2017 in connection with the CSM case.

When the court resumed the trial proceeding, Sardar Taimoor Khan pointed out that not a single prosecution witness was present despite summons from the court.

The prosecutor, Kaleemullah Tarrar, contacted the witnesses and requested them to attend the proceeding, but they refused.

Mr Tarrar informed the judge accordingly who issued bailable warrants for the arrest of directors Ali Azeem Ikram, Abid Hussain and former commissioner Tahir Mehmood.

The court dismissed the application of Ms Fatima, observing that she had testified and cross examined in accordance with the relevant provisions of the law.

Maheen Fatima testified that in August 2011, the SECP scrutinised the record of Chaudhry Sugar Mills which was closed in January 2013.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had found SECP Chairperson Zafar Hijazi guilty of closing the inquiry into the Sharif family’s Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited by backdating.

The Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) petitioned before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) a few months ago, seeking probe into political engineering in local politics and, besides other issues, sought investigation into the alleged WhatsApp call to Mr Hijazi from a former Supreme Court registrar for the appointment of a member in the joint investigation team (JIT) that probed assets of the Sharif family in 2017.

In a report submitted with the Supreme Court in July 2017, the FIA stated that Mr Hijazi obtained the record of the mills and verbally ordered SECP officials Maheen Fatima and Ali Azeem Ikram in the presence of Abid Hussain and Tahir Mehmood for the backdated closure of the investigation.

The note dated Jan 14, 2013 was prepared and sent on June 29 and June 30, 2016 by SECP Corporate Supervision Department Additional Director Tariq Ahmad via email to Internal Audit and Compliance Department Director Maheen Fatima, the report stated.

Ms Fatima was asked to close the investigation against Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited.

Therefore, the FIA registered criminal case against Mr Hijazi under sections 466 and 471 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

During the cross examination, Maheen Fatima conceded that Hijazi never pressurised her to close the CSM file.

Recalling the recording of her statement before the JIT set up by the Supreme Court, she said she was not pressurised by the JIT members either.

During the cross examination, the counsel for Mr Hijazi reminded her the in a subsequent meeting at the SECP following her appearance before the JIT, she disclosed that the officials of the intelligence agencies who were members of the six-member investigation team headed by the then additional director general FIA, Wajid Zia, grilled her while the rest were sitting as silent spectators.

Ms Fatima replied that she was present in the meeting on June 16, 2017 but did not recollect whether she shared such details in the meeting.

As per the order sheet of the trial court, “at this stage, defence counsel presented the alleged video recording of the commission meeting held on June 16, 2017 but the prosecution witness [Fatima] refused to watch the said recording”.

The court, however, accepted this video as evidence from the defence side.

Further hearing in the case was adjourned till May 28.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2022

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