SHC bars NAB from proceeding against former IO in Dr Asim case

Seeks Rangers prosecutor's reply on Ubaid K2, others acquittal pleas

Our Correspondent September 30, 2021
Dr Asim Hussain. PHOTO: FILE


The Sindh High Court restricted the National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday from taking action against the former investigation officer (IO) of the Rs462 graft reference against former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Shamsuddin Abbasi, restricted the national anti-graft watchdog from taking action against the petitioner, Zameer Abbasi, who was the initial IO of the case against Dr Asim and is now accused of taking bribes.

The petitioner's counsel, Barrister Zameer Ghumro, maintained that his client serves as the Sindh local government board secretary and was previously posted at NAB from 2015 to 2017. The defence counsel said that the bureau is investigating bribery allegations against former employees and it is feared that Abbasi will be arrested. Another former employee Zainul Abidin is under investigation for collecting bribes from persons involved in NAB cases, said the counsel, arguing that his client was not involved in any such activity.

Restricting the watchdog from proceeding against Abbasi, the bench sought a reply from the NAB prosecutory by October 11. An inquiry is underway against former NAB officers over allegations of corruption, bribery and making assets beyond means. The implicated officials are said to have collected large sums of money from persons under investigation by the anti-graft watchdog in exchange of closing inquiries against them. According to NAB, a man named Zainul Abidin and a former assistant director Osama Younis have been arrested thus far.

The petitioner, Zameer Abbasi, was the initial NAB IO in the reference against Dr Asim and five others.

Dr Asim, who is also a close confidante of former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Asif Ali Zardari, and heads Ziauddin hospitals' trust-owned private health facilities, was indicted in a NAB reference along with five others in 2016. He is accused of extending a 'huge' loss to the national exchequer by misusing his powers as a federal minister.

The top accountability body filed a reference against the former minister and his alleged associates including former civil servants and some private persons, pertaining to an alleged scam, in which gas was curtailed illegally to the agriculture sector to benefit a particular group associated with the fertilizer industry. NAB contends the price of fertilizers was arbitrarily hiked and Dr Asim received kickbacks in return. Furthermore, the reference alleges land scam, public fraud and money laundering. The overall amount involved in this investigation is Rs462.5 billion.

Former petroleum and natural resources secretary Ejaz Chaudhry, Karachi Docks Labour Board's former CEO Safdar Hussain, Karachi Development Authority's ex-directors Syed Athar Hussain and Masood Haider Jaffery, and Ziauddin group finance director Abdul Hameed were also named as co-accused.

Weapons at Nine Zero

Meanwhile, another two-member bench comprising Justice KK Agha and Justice Irshad Ali Shah sought the Sindh Rangers prosecutor's reply on Muttahida Qaumi Movement activist Ubaid alias K2 and 10 other convicts plea for acquittal in the case pertaining to weapons and ammunition found at MQM headquarters Nine Zero.

Accepting the Rangers prosecutor's request for an extension, the bench sought his reply by October 12.

An anti-terrorism court had convicted MQM activists, Ubaid alias K2, Faisal Mehmood, Abid, Shabbir, Amir Ali, Muhammad Javed, Muhammad Amir, Mehmood Hassan, Imtiaz, Syed Kazim Raza, Abdul Qadir, Nadeem Ahmed and Muhammad Shakeel having found them guilty of possessing illegal weapons. The ATC had awarded six to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment to each of the convicts.

According to the prosecution, Rangers raided Nine Zero on March 11, 2015, and seized a huge quantity of illegal weapons and ammunition from the Khursheed Memorial Hall, an office of the party.

Land record sought

Meanwhile, a two-member bench comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Faisal Kamal Alam summoned the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) DG in personal capacity over a contempt plea pertaining to encroached land.

The petitioner's counsel informed the bench that his client had purchased a plot in Block-III, KDA Scheme V. The counsel contended that the plot was encroached upon and never handed over to the petitioner. The court had directed that his client be given an alternate plot but the judicial directives were not implemented, argued the counsel. The bench summoned the KDA DG in personal capacity along with the relevant land records at the next hearing slated for November 5.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2021.


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