Acquittal in a Lahore banking court does not appear to be the end of Punjab Assembly member Moonis Elahi’s legal troubles.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed outrage at the way the investigation into Elahi’s alleged involvement with the National Insurance Company Ltd (NICL) was handled by the interior ministry and the Federal Investigation Agency.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry questioned the acquittal of Elahi, particularly why the accusations against the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q) leader were separated from the main NICL embezzlement scandal trial.
“Why was he [Elahi] tried separately? The other accused are still behind bars. Justice should be equal for everyone,” remarked the chief justice.
The court also ordered Interior Secretary Khwaja Siddique Akbar and FIA Director General Tehseen Anwar Shah to respond to allegations by Zafar Qureshi, the former lead investigator in the case, that they had deliberately created hurdles in the investigation.
Qureshi retired on September 30, without being able to complete his probe. Yet, he continued to testify regarding the case, alleging, for instance, that bank accounts of Moonis Elahi that were frozen during the investigation were somehow unfrozen and the money in them released to Elahi.
Qureshi named Waqar Haider, a director at the FIA, and Zulfiqar Ali, a legal officer at the agency, as being responsible for allowing Elahi to move his money out of his accounts before the probe ended.
In addition to providing details of Elahi’s assets abroad, Qureshi also alleged that Habibullah Warraich, a former cabinet minister who is one of the accused in the case, was allowed to board a flight at Karachi Airport and leave the country.
This information visibly upset the chief justice, who then asked where the absconders in the case were. FIA Legal Director Azam Khan replied that they were in the United Kingdom. Khan also admitted that about Rs420 million of the embezzled amount had yet to be recovered from the accused.
“What is going on, Mr Attorney General,” he asked angrily of Maulvi Anwarul Haq, who was representing the federation in the case.
Since Qureshi’s retirement, the investigation has been taken over by Waqar Haider, a director at the FIA’s Lahore office, who is working with the team that Qureshi had initially assembled to probe the case.
The court issued notices to Haider and Azam Khan, in addition to the attorney general, the interior secretary, and the FIA director general to appear before the court on November 2 to explain why their orders regarding the NICL scam’s investigation were not being implemented.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2011.