KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed on Friday the provincial chief secretary to immediately remove an officer, Syed Hasan Naqvi, who was reinstated on the post of the finance secretary after he entered into a plea bargain with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Headed by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh, a two-judge bench told the chief secretary to submit a copy of the official notification regarding his removal during the course of the day.
The court noted that some officers, who were reinstated on posts in different government departments after they entered into a plea bargain and accepted NAB’s voluntary return (VR) schemes, were still continuously working by not disclosing their identities.
Therefore, the court told the chief secretary to prepare a new list of all those officers, as the earlier list submitted to the court was not clear.
Earlier, the judges noted that Naqvi, who was reinstated after entering into a plea bargain and accepting the VR scheme, had yet to be removed from the post of the provincial finance secretary.
They expressed their extreme displeasure over non-compliance with the court’s clear orders to remove such officers and inquired why the particular officer had not been removed yet from the post.
Keeping the matter aside for some time, the bench members gave time till 1pm to the chief secretary to remove the finance secretary and submit a copy of the official notification in court.
The bench inquired from the chief secretary as to why he was hiding such officers and protecting them despite the court’s orders to remove them. The chief secretary said he was not protecting anyone.
“What is your interest in protecting such officers?” the chief justice asked the top bureaucrat. “Are you happy to have such officers in Shikarpur and Sukkur districts?” the judge remarked.
The chief secretary and the additional advocate-general merely smiled instead of offering any explanation.
The next hearing was fixed on January 25.
The issue came up during the hearing of a petition filed by Ghulam Mustafa Lund who had approached the court against alleged harassment by NAB authorities despite having voluntarily returned the amount misappropriated by him in a financial scam.
The petitioner, Lund, said he was serving as an accounts officer in the finance department in Thatta district in 2016 when NAB launched an investigation against him for possessing immovable assets beyond his known source of income.
The petitioner confessed to his involvement in the scam and voluntarily returned Rs370 million as provided under Section 25 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999. Therefore, he was cleared of the charges and restored to his government job.
The judges were told that after some time the Federal Investigation Agency initiated an inquiry into the same scam in Dadu district, where he was posted as a district accounts officer. In the meantime, he alleged that NAB again jumped in and was harassing him by issuing a call-up notice despite the fact that he had voluntarily returned the amount.
At an early hearing, a prosecutor for the federal anti-graft watchdog had claimed that there were more than 500 officers who were found involved in corrupt practices in inquiries and subsequently opted to voluntarily return the embezzled money by entering into plea bargains with NAB.
The prosecutor said NAB had recovered a total of Rs16.6 billion from these officers under the voluntary return scheme.
Sindh government’s statistics
On the other hand, provincial advocate-general Barrister Zamir Ghumro had informed the court that there were 1,309 officers against whom inquiries were initiated but had been restored on their posts in the province after entering into plea bargains.
The court was further informed that 27 such officers were dismissed from their jobs while inquiries against around 100 other officers were still under way. The law officer sought more time to file a report about the fate of such inquiries.
The chief minister ordered on Friday the removal of the finance secretary and that the charge will be given to the additional finance secretary but no official notification was issued.