ISLAMABAD: Further seeking reprieve from courts in the prohibited funding case, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) staffer challenged the call-up notice issued to him by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in its ongoing probe into the case, while the Peshawar High Court restrained the FIA from taking any action against former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser.

Muhammad Nauman Afzal, deputy director of the Party Management Cell, was among the four PTI officials authorised to receive funds from Pakistan and abroad. Others included telephone operator Tahir Iqbal, accountant Muhammad Arshad and office helper Muhammad Rafiq, as per the Election Commission of Pakistan’s findings.

According to Akbar S Babar, the estranged PTI leader and complainant in the prohibited funding case, Rs11.104 million had been deposited in the accounts of the four employees, which was beyond their known sources of income.

Afzal contended in the petition that “opening and maintaining of those accounts had never been disputed by the complainant...Those accounts were (admittedly) never used for any funding of an enlisted political party and no such finding was recorded by the Election Commission”.

He further contended that the ECP had not directed the FIA to inquire into any aspect of these accounts. These matters exclusively fell within the jurisdiction of the ECP, and not of the FIA, he maintained. The petition requested the court to set aside the FIA’s call-up notice for being issued without any legal backing.

PHC order on Qaiser’s plea

Meanwhile, the Peshawar High Court stopped the FIA from taking any adverse action against Mr Qaiser and sought comments from the agency over his plea against the initiation of an inquiry into two bank accounts of the PTI in Peshawar.

A bench comprising Justice Shakeel Ahmad and Justice Kamran Hayat Miankhel ordered the comments be filed within a fortnight and also include the documents showing the matter had been referred by the ECP to the federal government for taking legal action against the petitioner.

The bench directed the court’s office to fix for hearing in the last week of August the petition that requested the court to set aside a notice issued by the FIA to Qaiser to appear before an inquiry officer in connection with the probe into two bank accounts managed by the former speaker from 2018 till 2013 as the PTI provincial head. The petitioner wants the inquiry to be declared illegal and based on mala fide.

The petitioner also sought interim relief from the court, requesting it to suspend action on the inquiry and stop the respondents, including the relevant FIA officials, from issuing ‘adverse’ orders against him until the disposal of the case.

The bench directed an additional attorney general to submit comments on behalf of the two respondents -- the FIA deputy director and the inquiry officer.

Suri doesn’t show up

On the other hand, former National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri, former Balochistan governor Syed Zahoor Ahmed Agha and local party leaders Dawood Panizai and Abdul Wahab Agha did not appear before the FIA to submit their replies in the prohibited funding case probe.

The FIA had issued notices to the leaders for appearing at its Quetta office for answering questions about the party’s funds, and sought the record of funds transferred to PTI’s Balochistan accounts between 2011 and 2013.

“None of the PTI leaders, who were summoned for appearing in FIA Quetta banking circle for investigation today, showed up,” FIA Banking Circle Deputy Director Muhammad Ali Abro told Dawn, adding all four leaders would be issued notices again.

However, Mr Suri said the FIA notice was received at his Quetta residence on Wednesday night. “I was not in Quetta and there was no flight today (Thursday) for the city, which is why I could not appear before the FIA,” he claimed.

He said the money sent to Balochistan from 2011 to 2013 in the official PTI account through banks was spent on the party secretariat’s expenditures.

Meanwhile, PTI Balochistan spokesman Asif Tareen claimed none of the PTI leaders appeared before the FIA in Quetta as the notices issued to them were illegal. He said according to Qasim Suri, the Islamabad High Court had declared the FIA’s notices “unconstitutional”.

Waseem Ahmad Shah in Peshawar and Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2022

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