LAHORE: An accountability court on Thursday returned a reference of alleged corruption against Punjab Assembly speaker Sibtain Khan and others to the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for placing it before a court of competent jurisdiction following recent amendments to the law of the anti-corruption watchdog.
A counsel on behalf of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA Khan and other suspects argued that the accountability court lacked jurisdiction as per latest amendment in section 5 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999. He contended that the NAB, after the new amendment, could not prosecute an alleged offence involving money less than Rs500 million and the offence amount in the reference against the suspects was below the minimum value.
Admitting the arguments of the counsel, Judge Zubair Shahzad Kiyani observed that the value of the offence in the reference was less than Rs500m.
Therefore, the judge returned the reference to the chairman of the NAB for placing it before a court of competent jurisdiction without any delay.
The NAB accused Khan and others of committing corruption in the award of an unlawful contract for extracting precious minerals in Chiniot.
Khan, a PTI lawmaker from Mianwali, had resigned as minister for forest, wildlife and fisheries after his arrest in 2019.
The NAB alleged that Khan violated laws and awarded a multi-billion contract to a firm of his choice namely Earth Resource Private Limited (ERPL) during 2007 when he was minister for mines and minerals in the PML-Q government.
The bureau alleged that the company that was given the contract had a paid-up capital of Rs2.5m only and also lacked the experience required for the project. The company was not even registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Khan signed the agreement ignoring the laws.
Other suspects included former secretary for mines and minerals department Imtiaz Ahmad Cheema, former chief inspector (mines) Abdul Sattar and former general manager (operations of mines) of the company Muhammad Aslam.
The NAB said Cheema at the behest of then minister Khan constituted a technical committee and made other suspects Sattar and Aslam its members. It said the technical committee conducted a fake survey that led to the unlawful contract in favour of the company.
PROFESSORS: An accountability court on Thursday returned a reference of making alleged illegal appointments against former vice chancellor of Punjab University Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran and five others to the NAB chairman with a direction to place the case before the court of competent jurisdiction.
A counsel for the suspects submitted that the accountability court could not proceed with the reference further after the new amendment passed by the parliament.
Other suspects include former registrar Prof Dr Liaqat Ali and two additional registrars Prof Dr Aurangzaib Alamgir and Prof Dr Kamran Abid.
The Lahore High Court had in 2018 granted post-arrest bail to the professors in the reference and also reprimanded the officials of the NAB for putting handcuffs on them at the time of their appearance before the trial court.
A counsel for the suspects argued before the court that the allegations against his clients were baseless. He said all the appointments in the Punjab University had been made strictly in accordance with law and due approval of the syndicate.
He said the alleged offence attributed by the NAB to the suspects did not fall within the jurisdiction of the accountability court in light of the new amendment.
Presiding Judge Qamaruz Zaman allowed the request of the counsel and returned the reference to the NAB chairman to do the needful.
Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2022