SHC directs NAB to end inquiry against former minister of Zakat and Ushr

You people are setting the country on fire, the court said, expressing annoyance at NAB

Our Correspondent April 10, 2019
You people are setting the country on fire, the court said, expressing annoyance at NAB. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to end the inquiry against former minister of Zakat and Ushr Dost Muhammad Rahimo over the report submitted by NAB's investigation officer (IO).

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Omar Sial and Justice Yousuf Ali Syed, was hearing the plea on Tuesday in which the IO informed the court that evidences in the inquiry against Rahimo haven't been found yet. The court remarked that NAB officials don't have any evidence against any of the accused ever, they just bother people for no reason. The court expressing further annoyance said that NAB officials start inquiries very enthusiastically, accuse people, but then say that no evidence was found. The court inquired that where the Rs500 million went for which the inquiry was started, who embezzled that money if it hasn't been recovered? "Did NAB take that money?" the court asked.

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Justice Sial remarked that everyone was observing NAB's performance. "You people are setting the country on fire. You bother people and then say the money hasn't been recovered."

Bail plea

The same bench ordered the NAB's IO on Tuesday to appear with the progress report on next hearing over the bail pleas filed by former education director Wahab Abbasi and others.

The court expressed annoyance with NAB over its performance and remarked that NAB officials start inquiry against people and then end it themselves. Most inquiries end only because the IO himself is satisfied with the accused and declare that no evidence was found so the case is closed. Justice Sial remarked that all cases should be closed already if NAB officials are going to do the same for corruption cases. NAB IO doesn't do anything, remarked the court.

The petitioner's counsel argued that the inquiry against the accused continued for four years but the reference hasn't been filed yet while accused Wahab Abbasi is being bothered for the last four years. "If nothing comes out even after so many years then why do you bother the people?" asked the court. The court ordered the NAB IO to submit a progress report and adjourned the hearing till May 8.

Sharjeel Memon's case

The same bench forwarded the bail plea of former provincial minister Sharjeel Inam Memon to the SHC Chief Justice (CJ) for further hearing.

The bench was hearing the bail plea on Tuesday in which the petitioner's lawyer Advocate Khalid Javed argued that Memon had been in jail since 2017. The plea was filed on case merit as only three out of 50 witnesses had recorded their statements in such a long time. Memon had been accused of selling advertisements at expensive rates while the rates of advertisements according to the new list issued by the federal government was way more than the previous rates.

The two-member bench forwarded the plea to CJ for further hearing. Justice Sial remarked that the bench comprising CJ and Justice KK Agha has taken the decision over the interim bail plea filed by Memon, therefore the plea will be heard by the same bench.

New Hajj policy

The same bench issued notices to the federal ministry of religious affairs over the plea filed against the new Hajj policy and the increase in the expense of government Hajj scheme.

The petitioner Rao Nasir's counsel argued that the expense of the government Hajj scheme was Rs250,000 last year but the amount has been doubled in the new Hajj policy. People are being deprived of the opportunity to perform Hajj because of this, so the new Hajj policy should be annulled and the court must issue directives to reduce the expense of the government Hajj scheme, the petition states. The government starts to collect billions of rupees in interest from people preparing to perform Hajj up to eight months before time.

The court issued notices and sought reply from federal ministry of religious affairs by April 30.

Use of gas cylinders

The same bench ordered the relevant departments to prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs) and submit a report on May 7 pertaining to the use of substandard gas cylinders in school vans and public transport.

The court directed the departments to create a solid strategy to avoid accidents. The Sindh government's lawyer argued that the installation and monitoring of cylinders was not their responsibility. Justice Mazhar remarked that you have done enough advocacies, now you should also work a bit for public interest. "People are dying and you are saying it's not your responsibility!"

The Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP) officer stated that most of the accidents occur due to the cylinders catching fire as people use carbon dioxide gas to save money. The court said that those responsible for the installation and monitoring of the CNG kits should be brought before the court.

Magistrate issued notice

The SHC issued notices on Tuesday to the magistrate 26 East and Sindh prosecutor-general over the plea filed by a visually-impaired man for the transfer of his case to another court.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Abdul Malik Gaddi and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, was hearing the plea filed by the visually-impaired man, who claimed that the magistrate made fun of his disability. The petitioner's counsel, Advocate Mumtaz Mayo, maintained that the judicial magistrate made fun of the man's disability by saying that he was just pretending to be blind. The petitioner said that he had come to Pakistan after two years from Saudi Arabia where he collected money as a beggar. His wife and his kids disappeared with all his savings that he sent her including Rs200,000 and gold. He requested the SHC to transfer his case to another court.

The court issued notices to the magistrate and Sindh prosecutor-general and sought their replies by April 26.

Protective bail granted

The former finance minister Miftah Ismail on Tuesday approached the SHC to get pre-arrest bail in an inquiry of NAB.

Fearing possible arrest by NAB, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former minister approached SHC for protective bail. He is currently facing the NAB investigation in the liquefied petroleum gas (LNG) terminal scandal.

The PML-N leader stated in his plea that the NAB was carrying out a baseless inquiry against him.

He requested the court to grant him protective bail. ''I am ready to cooperate with NAB in its inquiry of the LNG scam,'' he assured the court. The court approved his protective bail for 10-days against a surety of Rs0.2million.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2019.

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