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IHC dismisses petition to reinstate Ogra official

March 27, 2013

ISLAMABAD, March 26: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday dismissed the petition of Mansoor Muzaffer Ali, Member (Gas) at Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), who was seeking restoration of his powers.

He was barred from performing his official duties by the Cabinet Division for his alleged involvement in a multi-billion rupee corruption case in which former Ogra chairman, Tauqir Sadiq, was also an accused.

The bench, comprised of Chief Justice Mohammad Anwar Khan Kasi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, explained that if allowed to “exercise his authority” at the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, the petitioner "could hamper investigations into the Ogra scam," since he himself was implicated in the case.

Senior officials at the authority, including former chairman, were accused of “extending undue favours to private companies”, causing the national exchequer a loss of Rs82 billion. Mansoor Muzaffer Ali was arrested last May by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for his involvement in "corruption and corrupt practices," but was granted post-arrest bail by the Lahore High Court's Rawalpindi bench on August 28.

Chaudhry Riaz, an additional deputy prosecutor for the NAB, argued that the petitioner should not be allowed to resume his official duties, since the principle accused in the case had absconded abroad, and "Mr Mansoor might change the record to hinder investigation."

Mansoor Muzaffer Ali's counsel, Aurangzeb, told the court that after his release in August, "Mansoor returned to his office. But on September 19, a letter came from the Secretary of the Cabinet Division, forbidding Ogra from assigning him any responsibilities."

The letter suggested that having returned to his post at Ogra following his release by the LHC, Mansoor "could influence witnesses and the relevant record," which would "be harmful" for investigations into the corruption case.

According to the lawyer, the Cabinet letter was illegal and a violation of NAB policy stating that government servants "against whom references are pending" can continue to perform their official duties; they can also receive promotions and transfers.

Mansoor Muzaffer Ali has filed appeals with the NAB chairman and with the Secretary, but has yet to receive a reply.

His lawyer added that Mansoor's relationship with Ogra authorities, including former chairman Sadiq, had been less than amicable. A government servant for over three decades, Mansoor joined Ogra in September 2010, shortly before the Supreme Court took up a case regarding Tauqir Sadiq's appointment to the chairmanship.

"After my client was appointed as Member (gas), Mr Sadiq withheld his powers for no reason," Aurangzeb maintained. "Ultimately, the Secretary of the Cabinet Division decided the matter in my client's favor, sending Tauqir Sadiq on forced leave."