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Tussle over tycoon

August 17, 2012


RAWALPINDI, Aug 16: A long festering tussle between two corruption-fighting agencies has reached a new high with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) inquiring a regional director of the anti-corruption establishment (ACE).

It had started last November when NAB tried to seize the record of a land fraud case in the possession of ACE, allegedly involving property tycoon Malik Riaz and his son Ali Riaz.

On August 3, NAB summoned Mohammad Khan Ranjha, regional director ACE who is also heading the investigation in the said land fraud case. Mr Ranjha termed the inquiry against him as an act of victimisation and challenged the process in the Lahore High Court (LHC).

LHC division bench, after hearing the preliminary arguments of prosecutor general Punjab who was representing ACE, restrained the NAB authorities from proceeding against the ACE director and also suspended the operation of the notices served to him by NAB.

According to details, NAB deputy director (DD) Mohammad Mohsin Majeed on August 3 summoned ACE regional director Ranjha and directed him to appear before him in the NAB office in Lahore.

The NAB official advised him to bring his original CNIC and passport size photograph with him on August 7.

Before filing the petition in the LHC, Mr Ranjha submitted his written reply to chairman NAB in which he requested him to stop the inquiry against him and also requested the chairman for taking action against NAB officials who were allegedly harassing him.

Mr Ranjha in his reply submitted to chairman NAB that he is heading the investigation of the said land fraud case, under the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The reply said that the persons involved in the land fraud are very influential which includes real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, his son Ali Riaz as well as other senior management staff of Bahria Town.

Ranjha said, few months back, a NAB Rawalpindi team tried to get possession of the investigation record of this case from my office but my resistance annoyed them and they threatened me, adding that since then, NAB officials were trying to harass the ACE officials by initiating such proceedings.

The reply said that after receiving NAB summons, Ranjha telephoned NAB’s DD and asked for details of the inquiry.

The NAB official denied giving any information and warned him that in case ACE director would not comply with the directions by August 9, he would face arrest.

According to the reply, Mr Ranjha visited the NAB office on August 9 but DD NAB was not present in his office. Ranjha then contacted him on telephone, who directed him to appear the next day.

It added that on August 10, NAB official detained Ranjha at his office and snatched his mobile phone for five hours but did not tell him about the inquiry for which NAB summoned him.

Ranjha then came to know that he was facing allegation that in September 2011, when he was posted in Sargodha as EDO (revenue) some undisclosed person bribed him for recruitment against the post of ‘ziladar’ in the revenue department.

He told the NAB official that he was not posted in Sargodha in September 2011 and the complainant built a frivolous story against him.

Ranjha in his reply alleged that NAB was victimising him for not giving favour to influential persons allegedly involved in the land fraud case in order to pressurise him.

Prosecutor general Punjab, Sadaqat Ali Khan told the LHC division bench comprising Justice Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmed and Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi that the NAB authorities are desperately trying to rescue the tycoon.

He said the relations of federal anti-corruption organisation NAB with the ACE Punjab has gone sore since November last year, when the latter refused to hand over the record of land fraud case to the former adding that there were strong reasons to believe that Malik Riaz would be exonerated, after a friendly prosecution by the NAB authorities.

Khan said that the trial court of ACE has started process for the attachment of the properties of Malik Riaz, his son Ali Riaz and this was the reason behind the frustration of NAB authorities.

NAB spokesman Zafar Iqbal despite repeated efforts could not be contacted for comments. Saeedur Rehman, additional deputy prosecutor general (ADPG) NAB, however, told this scribe that NAB would submit its detailed reply to the court by August 23, which is the next date of hearing of the land fraud case.