As Additional Director General Zafar Qureshi laid the groundwork for a fresh offensive in the currently stalled investigation of the multibillion-rupee National Insurance Company scam, the government and its allies scrambled to seek the removal of the recently reinstated probe chief from the case – or at least buy more time.
Looking to re-establish his authority in a probe from which he was unceremoniously removed after making tremendous headway, Qureshi on Thursday dumped two federal agency prosecutors and called for appointing independent lawyers to replace them.
Meanwhile, Babar Awan – former law minister and a key member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party – filed a petition on behalf of key accused Moonis Elahi, calling for removal of Qureshi as the lead investigator in the NICL case.
But Quershi’s move has already caused a considerable stir. The move, sources say, has left the government as well as the PML-Q in a daze, because it leaves them helpless in the investigation as well as prosecution of the NICL case.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the prosecutors’ performance, Qureshi urged the FIA chief to appoint senior lawyers, who were capable of deflecting pressure and interference from any quarter.
This was decided in a meeting between Zafar Qureshi and four investigators working under him and FIA prosecutors – Assistant Directors Zia Islam and Zulifqar Chaudhry and Deputy Director, law, Malik Javed.
Qureshi justified his request, citing the appointment of lawyers other than government prosecutors in major forex scams such as the Khanani and Kalia case, sources privy to the matter said.
Sources said that Qureshi also asked the NICL chief to hire a lawyer or consultant for pursuing the NICL case before the court, while appointing FIA’s Deputy Director, Law, Malik Javed as a new member of NICL investigation team.
More cases are likely to be registered and further arrests are expected soon, including of Mohsin Habib Warraich, two NICL directors Javed Syed, Amin Qasim Dada and a business manager of Mohsin Habib Warraich, Rana Muhammad Ali, sources familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
Sources said that Rs420 million was still recoverable from the accused.
The team summoned Akram Warraich, another accused in the NICL scam, while investigators prepared paperwork for the cancelation of bail of Habibullah Warraich, who was released by court on condition that he would transfer land measuring 803 kanals and 19 marlas to NICL until he cleared all liabilities amounting to Rs420 million within 45 days. The land has still not yet been transferred despite the lapse of two months, sources said.
In Islamabad, Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi’s son, filed a review petition on Thursday in the Supreme Court through his lawyer Babar Awan against Qureshi’s reinstatement.
Elahi contended that Qureshi had been reinstated without giving him a fair hearing. Accusing Qureshi of being partial against him, Elahi said that his personal bias would never allow him to conduct a fair inquiry.
He requested the court to review its decision to hand Qureshi the investigations of the case.
Elahi also sought a stay order on the apex court’s previous decision until it decided on his appeal.
Awan requested the court for an early hearing of Elahi’s petition. The court, however, told Awan that it would take up the matter later.
In Lahore, a district and sessions judge, Mujahid Mustaqeem Ahmed, on Thursday adjourned the hearing of NICL scam till September 6, accepting an application filed by Additional Director General FIA, who sought a one-month adjournment in the proceedings in order to complete the charge-sheet.
On Thursday, the FIA was expected to submit its reply on an acquittal application of Moonis Elahi.
Interestingly, the FIA’s additional director general’s application was not filed via any prosecutor.
(WITH REPORTING BY QAISER ZULFIQAR IN ISLAMABAD AND RANA YASIF IN LAHORE)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.