Probe against minister: SHC bars committee from releasing findings

Orders Sindh govt to review decision of imposing ban on pillion riding

​ Our Correspondent May 15, 2020

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court restricted on Thursday the committee formed to probe into the allegations levelled against Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh from releasing its conclusive findings.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed, issued notices to the home department, Sindh Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other parties in this regard.

Advocate Amir Mansoob claimed before the court that the committee had no legal standing.

"The former Sindh IGP had ordered the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe into the allegations but the present IGP instead ordered the constitution of a three-member committee for the purpose," he argued.

Advocate Fawad Katchi claimed that the members of the committee were Shaikh's friends, adding that Shikarpur SSP Dr Rizwan had clearly stated in his report that Shaikh had links with criminal elements. Saying that the former Sindh IGP Dr Kaleem Imam had ordered the formation of a JIT comprising officials of intelligence agencies on February 11, he moved the court to bar the committee from progressing further with the investigation.

At this, the court restricted the committee from further probing into the matter as well as releasing its findings. Moreover, it issued notices to the Sindh home department and other parties, seeking their replies by May 21.

The petition accuses Shaikh of colluding with the new IGP and forming a committee comprising members of his choice to probe into the allegations levelled against him.

The committee consists of Sukkur DIG Fida Hussain Mastoi, Operations Special Branch DIG Javed Akbar Riaz and Khairpur SSP Omar Tufail, all three of whom personally know Shaikh, the plea states, adding that the minister even attended a wedding ceremony at Tufail's house.

Maintaining that the committee could not conduct a fair investigation into the matter, the plea moves the court to order the formation of a JIT for the probe.

Pillion riding ban

The bench also directed the Sindh government and home department to review its decision of imposing an across the board ban on pillion riding, not even excluding journalists from the restriction.

"If public transport, including rickshaws and taxis, remains suspended, how would people travel?" questioned Justice Mazhar, adding that journalists were an important segment of society and the government should have given the matter some thought before imposing the ban. "If markets are opening and the lockdown has been eased, then the ban on pillion riding should also be reconsidered," he remarked.

Ordering the government to review its decision of barring all, including journalists, from pillion riding, the court also ordered it to give clarifications on the notifications issued regarding the ban on pillion riding.

Earlier, the Sindh additional advocate general had informed the court that pillion riding was permitted in case of medical emergencies and that it was also banned in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The Sindh government had earlier excluded women and journalists from observing the ban but later restricted all citizens from pillion riding, maintaining that exceptions could be misused by the public, the additional advocate general had stated.

According to the petitioner, journalists are facing difficulties in reporting due to the ban and crime has increased in the city as police personnel, too, are restricted from pillion riding. Maintaining that journalists have been observing all standard operating procedures issued in connection with the pandemic, he moved the court to direct the Sindh government to lift the ban.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2020.