KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) restrained the special provincial anti-corruption court on Monday from proceeding with a graft trial against the former provincial education secretary, Dr Fazlullah Pechuho, till further orders.
A single bench, headed by Justice Abdul Maalik Gaddi, passed this order while hearing a miscellaneous application moved by the former education secretary and incumbent health secretary, against arrest warrants issued against him by the provincial anti-corruption court.
The then education secretary, who is also a brother-in-law of former president Asif Ali Zardari, along with section officer Abdul Jabbar and junior clerk Iftikhar Hussain, has been charged with allegedly demanding a bribe from a suspended schoolteacher for his restoration in August, 2014.
The schoolteacher, Mithal, had approached Karachi’s South district and sessions court concerned for the registration of an FIR against Pechuho and the other education department officers.
The court had, on December 30, 2014, ordered the registration of a case against the former education secretary and others under sections 161 (public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 5 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act-II, 1949.
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Later, the trial court indicted them on September 17, 2017. However, Pechuho had decided to contest his indictment.
The applicant informed the high court that the trial court had issued a warrant for his arrest, which was illegal and should be suspended. Therefore, he pleaded to the court to suspend the warrant for his arrest.
On the other hand, the applicant, Mithal, informed the court that he was appointed a primary school teacher in 1992 and later promoted to the post of a high school teacher in 2013. But the education secretary and other officials suspended 405 teaching and non-teaching staff, including him.
He alleged that Pechuho, in connivance with Jabbar and Hussain, had demanded a bribe of Rs200,000 for his reinstatement and he paid the amount in the presence of some witnesses at a restaurant near the Sindh Secretariat.
It was alleged in the complaint that both the education department employees had again demanded a bribe, but he refused and thus the respondents issued him a show-cause notice and threatened him via text messages on his mobile phone.
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In the meantime, he alleged that the respondents reinstated the suspended employees after taking a huge bribe from them. Mithal said he came to know that the education secretary and others promoted some education department officials after receiving bribes.
He argued that the trial court had also appointed an officer of the Anti-Corruption Establishment to conduct an inquiry into the allegations in 2016, adding the inquiry report had already been placed before the trial court.
Therefore, he argued that the arrest warrants not be suspended and Pechuho’s plea be dismissed as it lacked merit.
After hearing arguments, Justice Gaddi extended the earlier stay order, restraining the special anti-corruption court concerned from proceeding with the matter till further orders. In the meantime, the Anti-Corruption Establishment staff were also directed not to cause any harassment to the applicant till the next date of the hearing.