LAHORE, Feb 20: An ehtesab bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursday set aside the conviction of MNA Riaz Fatyana awarded to him in a NAB reference of illegal recruitments.

Mr Fatyana was granted bail by the LHC last year and his conviction by the trial court was also suspended till the decision of the petition challenging the conviction. Mr Fatyana was allowed to contest general election since the operation of his sentence, including the disqualification to hold a public office, had been suspended by the court.

The MNA was sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs3 million by an accountability court in July, 2001, on charges of recruiting 126 people illegally in the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE). He had also been disqualified to hold a public office for a period of 10 years under Section 15 of the NAB Ordinance.

Mr Fatyana was alleged to have recruited 73 and 53 people in the BISE in two phases as result of which the education department had to pay Rs14.59 million and Rs14.31 million, respectively, salaries and other emoluments to them. The department reportedly suffered a total loss of Rs28.91 million due to these 126 recruitments.

His counsel contended that the prosecution had failed to establish the case against his client before the trial court which convicted him in absence of any concrete evidence.

He submitted that being an education minister, he was authorized to make recruitments and did not abuse his official position.

All the 126 employees had already been confirmed by the Supreme Court, declaring their recruitment legal, argued the counsel.

He cited the case of former petroleum minister Anwar Saifullah Khan, saying he had been acquitted of the same charges by the superior court on grounds that none of the alleged beneficiary had ever been dismissed from the service for being appointed by the minister.

The NAB counsel refuted the submissions on the grounds that the beneficiaries had been appointed with mala fide intentions. He contended that Mr Fatyana had the mandate to make legal recruitments only and could not abuse it by appointing people for personal favour.

Anwar Saifullah’s case had been wrongly cited by Mr Fatyana since in the latter’s case all 126 people had been dismissed for being appointed in violation of rules, argued the counsel.

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