ISLAMABAD, Jan 24: In a loud and clear warning to all and sundry, the Supreme Court reiterated on Monday that it would not tolerate corruption and said it had the constitutional mandate and the executive and judicial authority to enforce this decision.
“There will be no compromise in future on corruption cases. Do whatever you can,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry while heading a three-member bench hearing cases relating to alleged corruption in the affairs of National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) and Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).
He expressed disappointment over investigations into the allegations by the Federal Investigations Agency and said: “We are utterly disappointed because the FIA people are not interested in pursuing these cases.”
The NICL case pertains to procurement of land on high rates by its former chairman Ayaz Khan Niazi, which caused a huge loss to the national exchequer. The PSM scam caused a loss of Rs22 billion to the exchequer.
The chief justice made the observation when FIA Director Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, who was earlier supervising the inquiry into the NICL scandal, informed the court that he had been asked to quit the probe after he was promoted to grade-21.
His promotion and then transfer to Police Foundation invited ire of Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, a member of the bench, who asked Interior Secretary Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry about the urgency in transferring the officer to a department to which no senior officer wished to be transferred.“You yourself believe that Zafar Qureshi is your efficient and ace officer, but you are dumping him to put in his place some rotten eggs to do the job,” Justice Ramday said.
The secretary assured the court that he would inform the highest authority about the court’s observation.
“We can even order Tariq Masood Khosa, who has retired from the post of narcotics secretary, to take over the investigations,” the chief justice observed. (Tariq Khosa is the officer who was transferred to the narcotics division after promotion, ostensibly to stop him from investigating into the Rs9 billion Bank of Punjab scam).
Pointing towards the interior secretary, the chief justice said: “You could have approached the prime minister to stop Zafar Qureshi’s transfer.”
“We will not spare anyone,” Justice Ramday said, lamenting that the FIA was protecting “big fish”. “The culture of protecting corrupt (people) should end,” the bench observed.
“If an officer thinks he will be promoted for shielding corrupt elements he should think again,” Justice Ramday warned. “We will place court’s observations and findings about a certain officer in his service record and will see how he gets promoted in future.”
Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood said the main problem being faced during investigations was the faulty system of evaluation of the property in question by evaluators.
The court was informed that in addition to the losses sustained due to the land scam, the NICL had lost Rs1.7 billion in the 2006-07 stock exchange scam.
The court directed the interior secretary to look into the cases of corruption and bring the culprits to justice.
Tariq Iqbal Puri, who holds additional charge of supervising the NICL, informed the court that despite corruption the company was performing well, lately earning a profit of Rs6 billion. It had the good rating of AA plus.
STEEL MILLS CASE: Barrister Zafarullah submitted a number of documents, including the one compiled by 6,000 officers of Steel Mills, in an effort to establish that the loss suffered by the company was not Rs22 billion but Rs98 billion.
He also presented a report of the Auditor General of Pakistan which said the amount embezzled in the company was more than Rs39 billion, while the total liability incurred during the tenure of former chairman Moeen Aftab Sheikh from July 2008 to Dec 2010 was over Rs50 billion.
Barrister Zafarullah alleged that steel tycoon Riaz Laljee, who is considered to be a friend of President Asif Ali Zardari and NRO beneficiary, was behind the mess because he was still director of a number of steel companies which were active partners of the PSM and imported and exported steels for it.
The court adjourned the hearing till Feb 1 and asked the FIA to submit a comprehensive report and take steps to bring the culprits to book.