ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday formed a six-member joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the Rs35 billion fake account scam implicating Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur.
“We have constituted this JIT to conduct a probe into the fake bank accounts case to ascertain the truth behind those involved as well as to collect evidence for the purpose of ensuring that in the case an offence is made out, the persons involved therein are properly prosecuted”, says the written order passed by three-judge bench.
The bench is headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar and comprising by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
The three judges have remained part of the benches that adjudicated a number of high-profile cases in the last two years.
Justice Ahsan was part of the larger bench of the Panamagate case. He still remains the monitoring judge of accountability court proceedings against the Sharif family.
While Justice Bandial along with the top judge have heard the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi petitions.
Moreover, he has also heard the cases in which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified.
Justice Bandial, who will be the future CJP, also authored the judgment, which justified the lifetime disqualification under Article 62 (1) (f) of the constitution.
He, however, was heading the bench, which rejected the Islamabad High Court verdict regarding the disqualification of PML-N senior leader Khawaja Asif.
Meanwhile, Additional Director General (Economic Crime Wing) Ahsan Sadiq will head the investigation team. Its other members are: Commissioner-IR (Corporate Zone), Regional Tax Office Imran Latif Minhas, Joint Director BID-I, State Bank of Pakistan Majid Hussain, Director, National Accountability Bureau Noman Aslam, Director, Specialized Companies Division, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Muhammad Afzal and Brigadier Shahid Parvez of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The order says that the head of the investigation team ADG FIA Ahsan Sadiq may co-opt any other expert who may in his opinion be necessary to complete the investigation if needed.
Unlike Panamagate case, the bench did not include Military Intelligence (MI) officer in the new JIT, which will probe PPP leadership.
Likewise, there is no prescribed deadline to conclude the probe.
Legal experts say that it will be interesting to see whether the pre- arrest bail of the accused persons will be confirmed after the order’s issuance.
The JIT has been asked to submit periodic reports before the SC over the progress made on a fortnightly basis under the sealed cover for the court’s examination.
The first report of the JIT shall be filed within 15 days from today, the order states.
“The JIT shall have all powers relating to inquiries and investigations including those available in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908; National Accountability Ordinance, 1999; Federal Investigation Agency Act, 1974 and the Anti Corruption Laws,” the order states.
Similarly, all executive authorities in the country shall render assistance and provide support to the JIT in its working, if need be.
Moreover, the JIT shall set up its secretariat at a place convenient to it.
To ensure that the probe is conducted in a professional, transparent and effective manner, the order says that neither the JIT nor FIA nor any of the members of the JIT shall issue press releases or provide information relating to the media.
Owing to the apprehensions about the safety of the investigators expressed by DG FIA to begin with, the top court has directed Pakistan Rangers to provide adequate and effective security to the investigators and to ensure that they perform their functions without any fear to their life or liberty or that of their families, adding that such protection shall also upon request be provided to the witnesses.
The court also declined DG FIA’s request to transfer the investigation in Islamabad for the time being declined.
However, the order says that in case, any material, ground or information comes before this court showing interference in the investigation or an attempt to hamper, delay or obstruct investigation or creating an environment of fear and pressure for the investigators, his request will be re-examined at that stage for passing appropriate orders. The court will resume hearing on September 24.