ISLAMABAD: The nine-billion-rupee Bank of Punjab scam case took a new turn in the Supreme Court on Thursday. The apex court has directed the Secretary Establishment division to appoint former DG FIA Tariq Khosa to reinvestigate the case in order to ensure transparency.
The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that ensuring transparency of the investigative process and conducting a fair trial of the accused is a “national responsibility as the entire world is watching the case.”
The bench told off key accused Hamesh Khan’s counsel for giving interviews to the media and warned him to be careful while making public statements.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor General NAB Raja Amir Abbas told the court that Khan was discovered trying to send messages to his family to delete his emails regarding the case. Khan is accused of having asked for a change of clothes and having written messages on the soiled garments which were meant to be returned to his family.
Raja also told the court that in line with its query, he and NAB chairman Naveed Ahsan had discussed the possibility of revamping the investigation team and that Ahsan had agreed to exercise his authority to change the head of the investigation team.
The bench then suggested Khosa’s name, who had earlier assisted NAB in the investigation into the Bank of Punjab scam, a request Ahsan and Khosa readily agreed to.
Chaudhry said that the amount of money involved as well as the implication of law minister Babar Awan and finance secretary Salman Siddique demanded that a transparent investigation be conducted.
At Chaudhry’s asking, Khosa told the court that he’d like to include two people as part of his team, the names of whom he’d submit to the NAB chairman later.
However, Khosa brought to the attention of the bench that NAB is answerable to the prime minister through the law ministry while the FIA functions under the interior ministry. Khosa’s suggestion was that both institutions should be made autonomous with a view to minimising pressure and interference from either side during the investigation.
The court asked Ahsan to check with the Establishment Division whether they’d have any reservations regarding Khosa’s appointment. After hours, deputy attorney general Raja Amir Abbas returned to the court and said the Establishment Division is amenable but has asked for time to examine the technicalities.
Chaudhry then asked Ahsan to move a summary to the secretary establishment division asking for Khosa to be appointed as the chief of the NAB investigation team. Chaudhry said Khosa was to continue with his service as acting chairman narcotics.
Meanwhile, an application was also filed against former minister Rais Munir for having taken a loan of Rs 112 million by furnishing fake guarantees. And lawyer Khalid Kharal also submitted a civil miscellaneous application on behalf of the Kissan Dost Scheme, accusing Hamesh Khan of having embezzled Bank of Punjab monies. However, both applications were turned down.
The chief justice also directed Ahsan to forbid deputy prosecutor general Irfan Qadir from appearing in any NAB cases in Supreme Court. The hearing of the case has been adjourned till June 11th.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 28th, 2010.