PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday rejected the petition of former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser against the start of an inquiry by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) into two bank accounts of his party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, managed by him here.
A bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim pronounced a short order for the dismissal of Mr Qaiser’s petition, which had challenged the FIA bank account probe and a relevant call-up notice issued to him by the investigation officer.
Gohar Ali Khan, lawyer for the petitioner, and additional attorney general Aamir Javed furnished arguments during a marathon hearing.
After the judgement was pronounced, Mr Gohar told reporters that the order would be challenged in the Supreme Court.
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The court had earlier stopped the FIA from taking any ‘adverse’ action against Mr Qaiser, but had asked him to cooperate with it in the ongoing inquiry.
The FIA deputy director (commercial banking circle), Peshawar, had ordered that inquiry in the wake of the Aug 2 pronouncement of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the PTI had received funds from prohibited sources.
The petitioner had requested the court to set aside a notice by a FIA inquiry officer to appear before him in connection with the inquiry into two bank accounts opened in a branch of the Bank Islami (erstwhile KASB) in Peshawar cantonment area on Jan 23, 2010, and that of Habib Bank Limited’s Super Market branch in Peshawar opened on Aug 1, 2011, and managed by him from 2010 to 2013 as the PTI’s provincial head.
Barrister Gohar Ali contended that the ECP had neither issued any directions nor had it forwarded the case to the federal government for inquiry against his client.
He argued that the matter did not fall within the ambit of articles 6(3) and 2(C)(iii) of the Political Parties Order, 2002.
The lawyer contended that the two bank accounts were of the PTI Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s and had nothing to do with the party’s foreign funding.
He argued that the FIA had overstepped its jurisdiction as neither any money laundering nor any banking-related offence had taken place in the matter.
Referring to several judgements of the Supreme Court, the counsel argued that that if the FIA was authorised to assume jurisdiction in such matters, a ‘flood gate’ would open.
He contended that the issue had been pending with the ECP, so the FIA had acted in illegal manner to start the inquiry.
The lawyer said the Political Parties Act, 1962, was replaced with the Political Parties Order, 2002, and one of the objective was to remove criminal proceedings regarding a political party.
He pointed out that recently, the apex court had ruled in a petroleum company-related case that the National Accountability Bureau didn’t have the jurisdiction to act against the company and instead the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority was the relevant body.
The counsel said under the Political Parties Order, if it was proved that a party was involved in receiving illegal funding, at the most those funds could be confiscated to the state but no criminal proceedings could be initiated.
Barrister Gohar argued that on one hand, the ECP had issued notices to the petitioner but on the other, the FIA had begun the inquiry, so itwas tantamount
to double jeopardy, which was prohibited under the Constitution.
AAG Aamir Javed argued that under Article 220 of the Constitution, it was binding on all executive authorities in the federation and provinces to help the ECP discharge its functions.
He said the ECP could not record evidence and it had only been conducting summary trials, due to which the FIA was the relevant forum to properly probe the issue.
The AAG said in the issue heard by the ECP, there were two types of bank accounts, the one which were owned by the PTI and had received foreign funding, and the other, which were not owned by the party.
He said the ECP had taken notice of the accounts owned by the PTI and had already issued notices to the party, but the FIA had taken notice of the bank accounts disowned by it.
Mr Javed argued that referring the matter to the FIA was meant to know whether any illegal funding had been made to those accounts supervised by the petitioner.
He argued that the petition was not maintainable as the FIA had only been probing the bank accounts not owned by the party.
The AAG said it would yet to be seen whether any illegality was committed by the petitioner and at the current stage, the call-up notice and the impugned inquiry couldn’t quashed.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022