Overruling the prime minister’s refusal to reappoint the lead investigator of the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) land scam, the Supreme Court has made good on its promise to reinstate Zafar Qureshi to his previous assignment.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry cancelled the notification of Qureshi’s transfer to the National Police Foundation which was initiated by Malik Iqbal, then director-general (DG) of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The court has issued an order, directing the FIA chief to cooperate with Qureshi, who has been given a free hand to conduct a transparent investigation and recover the rest of the money from influential politicians and individuals affiliated with the ruling coalition. The apex court has restrained the FIA chief as well as ‘any other authority’ from interfering in his work. Qureshi has been ordered to submit fortnightly progress reports to Justice Amir Hani Muslim.
Iqbal, like his predecessor Waseem Ahmed, was removed from his post for contempt of court once the charges against him were proven from the letter he wrote to the interior ministry which gave the impression that Qureshi had wrapped up the investigation. Consequently, the cabinet division issued Qureshi’s transfer orders for the second time in violation of the court’s directive, despite the fact that the investigation was still in progress. Three federal secretaries were also served with contempt notices for posting out Qureshi from the FIA. He had been transferred on the verbal orders of the Principal Secretary to the PM, Khushnood Lashari.
The second attempt by the government to disengage Qureshi from the NICL investigation has been frustrated by the Supreme Court which had taken suo motu notice of misappropriations in NICL. Qureshi came in the line of fire after he uncovered a trail of payments to Moonis Elahi’s accounts and took him into custody. It was widely circulated that one of the conditions set by the PML-Q for joining the PPP-led coalition in the centre was the removal of the lead investigation officer and freedom for Elahi.
During the hearing, the federation’s counsel, Dr Babar Awan informed the bench that Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gilani has declined to sign the summary for Qureshi’s reappointment. The bench observed that the government has intentionally violated the court’s directives and questioned why the government had challenged the court’s authority. The counsel submitted that the PM was only exercising his constitutional authority to appoint government officers. The chief justice remarked that Qureshi has recovered Rs1.75 billion which is a record in a criminal case. He observed that officers of his calibre should be appreciated by the government instead of creating friction among institutions. “The court’s decisions should be implemented,” he maintained.
Awan argued that institutions should respect the jurisdiction defined by the Constitution. He said the government respected the judiciary and denied that it did not implement the court’s judgments. The chief justice remarked that the government had consistently violated court orders as was evident from the record. Awan said the government comprises various institutions which should not trespass into each other’s jurisdiction. Further hearing was adjourned sine die.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2011.