In a surprising move, the government temporarily suspended on Saturday its earlier orders to swap the bosses of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Ministry of Narcotics Control, The Express Tribune has learnt.
This came a day after Narcotics Ministry Secretary Zafar Abbas Lak was transferred and made director general of the FIA in place of Javed Iqbal, who was directed to take over Lak’s former assignment.
The swap was made on the verbal orders of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who is currently touring the United Kingdom, sources told The Express Tribune.
However, at the request of a powerful real-estate tycoon, President Asif Ali Zardari intervened in the matter and asked the prime minister to temporarily suspend the orders, sources said.
Swiftly after the president’s intervention, the deputy secretary of the Establishment Division and other concerned officials were rushed to their offices around midnight on Friday. And by 1:20am on Saturday, they issued a fresh notification staying the transfers.
The transfer orders of the FIA DG Javed Iqbal, BPS-22 officer in the Police Service of Pakistan, as Ministry of Narcotics Control secretary, and the transfer orders of Ministry of Narcotics Control Secretary Zafar Abbas Lak as FIA DG have been held in abeyance till further orders, reads the notification.
This notification has been issued with the approval of the competent authority and will be implemented with immediate effect, it further reads.
The notification was undersigned by Shahzad Qaiser, the deputy secretary at the Establishment Division (interior), and carries his seal.
However, the spokesperson for the Establishment Division, Aftab Jamal, refused to confirm the development. ‘‘The two officials have been transferred – this is all that I know. I don’t know of any withdrawal of their notifications today (May 12),” he told The Express Tribune. Sources said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik was unhappy with FIA chief Javed Iqbal and prevailed on Premier Gilani, whom he was accompanying on the London tour, to transfer Iqbal.
Incensed by the move, the real-estate tycoon protested to President Zardari over the ‘illogical and unjustified’ transfer, sources said. Subsequently, the president asked Premier Gilani to hold the transfers in abeyance.
The interior minister, who returned to Pakistan on Saturday, drove straight to the house of the real-estate tycoon, who is considered a close friend of President Zardari, sources said and added that FIA chief Javed Iqbal was also present in the meeting between the two.
Lak is said to be a close relative of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat whose Pakistan Muslim League- Quaid is a coalition partner in the PPP-led government.
Had Iqbal been replaced, it would have been the sixth time the government had changed FIA chief in, what sources say, an apparent move to save some influential figures involved in a narcotics scandal. Recently, Zafar Abbas Lak had defied the apex court orders in the ephedrine quota case in which Premier Gilani’s son Musa Gilani is also an accused. (With additional reporting by Zahid Gishkori in Islamabad)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2012.
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