ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau’s prosecutor general Irfan Qadir’s chickens may finally be coming home to roost.
According to a NAB report presented in the Supreme Court during the hearing of the Haris Steel Mills case on Wednesday, Qadir is the one who was facilitating contact between lawyers and Sheikh Afzal, the primary accused in the case, in a bid to influence the outcome of judicial proceedings. And the Supreme Court demanded to know why Qadir has yet to be arrested. The report was read out by Punjab advocate-general Khwaja Haris. He told the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry that Irfan Ali, who was Sheikh Afzal’s manager, gave former attorney-general Malik Qayyum Rs20 million and another Rs25 million to Sarfaraz Merchant.
Law minister Babar Awan apparently got five million rupees in legal fees and another Rs35 million over and above. Waseem Sajjad and his son Ali Waseem are said to have received Rs7.5 million, Sharifuddin Pirzada is said to have gotten Rs20 million and Mohsin Naqvi Rs3.5 million. However, Haris also voiced serious objections regarding the investigations concluded by the NAB. While he admitted the report was detailed enough, he complained that the report was predicated on just the confessional statements of Azal and Co. And this, he argued before the court, weakened the prosecution’s case and rendered them incapable of arresting the accused.
Chaudhry also expressed shock at Qadir having been appointed NAB prosecutor-general, despite his involvement in such a case. “Who appoints the prosecutor general?” asked Chaudhry, to which deputy prosecutor general NAB Raja Amir replied: “The president, on the advice of the NAB chairman.” In an apparent dig at the Ahmed Riaz Sheikh case, Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday remarked that all those who were being tried by the court were being appointed as officers. At Chaudhry’s insistence on knowing who would be charged with recovering the money given to the lawyers, NAB officials said references against the lawyers have been sent against to the Pakistan Bar Council. “The PBC doesn’t have laws which would bind them to prosecute the lawyers,” shot back an irate Chaudhry.
“If you can’t bring that money back, you will also be sent to jail.” Later, Chaudhry directed Amir to give charge of the investigation to another team and suggested NAB investigator Colonel (retd) Niaz as a replacement. NAB director Rafat Ali also submitted an inquiry report before the bench regarding developments in the case of one of the accused Sheikh Nisar, who has absconded. Ali said that NAB raided multiple places but has failed to locate Nisar so far. However, he assured the bench that Nisar would be arrested in the next ten days. Ali said Nisar owed Rs550 million and that NAB has seized property worth Rs200 million, which belongs to his son and sisters.
A NAB investigation officer told the bench that there were two more references against Nisar, who has been on the run for the last four months and is said to have Rs 300 million with him. But the court refused to fall for this. “I know there is pressure on NAB from high ups; that’s why he has not been arrested till now,” said the chief justice. “I know NAB is deliberately protecting him”. Later, Haris also apprised the bench of developments regarding the transparent disposal of Afzal’s property in order to recover Bank of Punjab monies. Haris said the three-member committee headed by SC retired judge Jamshed has started working in accordance with the direction of the court and held its first meeting on May 22, wherein all issues were addressed.
Afzal’s counsel Uzair Bhindari, who is also a member of the committee, told the court that the committee has requested the transfer of Afzal’s entire property from NAB custody to the Bank of Punjab. This, Bhindari said, would allow for its quick disposal. But the bench shot down this request, saying that since the bank was party to the case, it could not be entrusted with Afzal’s property. Meanwhile, Afzal’s son Haris complained to the bench about the lack of medical facilities available to his father and uncle Sheikh Yaqoob who were both hepatitis patients. He also said he wasn’t allowed to meet them. The bench then directed the I.G. prison to provide medical facilities and also allow the prisoners to meet their family, as per the rules. The hearing has been adjourned till today (Thursday).
Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.