Escorted by dozens of his supporters, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Mines and Minerals Ziaullah Afridi was produced before an Ehtesab court amid tight security on Friday before being remanded into custody for 13 days.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also obtained a 12-day physical remand of at least 10 other former and current officials, including an ex-minister, arrested on similar charges.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader was arrested by the Ehtesab Commission (EC) on Thursday—the same day 10 other former and current officials of the mines and minerals department were taken into custody by NAB.
Ziaullah was taken to the court of Judge Subhan Sher to obtain his physical custody for the ongoing enquiry on the lease of mining contracts and the alleged abuse of authority by the minister. Additional Deputy Prosecutor General Qazi Babar Irshad produced him before the court.
Leases and appointments
Irshad said the EC had credible information that the suspect caused a loss of Rs150 billion to the provincial exchequer through illegal mining. The minister allegedly bypassed the provincial finance department when allotting leases.
He contended Ziaullah made illegal appointments in the department and did not follow the procedure, thus violating Section 11 of the Rules of Business 1972.
“No department shall, without previous consultation with the finance department, authorise any orders, other than orders in pursuance of any general or special delegation made by the finance department, which directly or indirectly affect the finances of the Province,” the section states.
Terming the detention of Ziaullah illegal, his counsel Abdul Latif Afridi told the court the commission lacked the authority to arrest an individual. He cited Section 38 of K-P Ehtesab Commission Act 2014 and said the arrest was in violation of it.
“The DG or an officer of the commission duly authorised by him, shall have the power, to direct that an accused may be arrested, if such arrest is necessary to facilitate effective investigation or, if the accused refuses to join the investigation,” reads Section 38.
Latif Afridi said although the commission accused his client of embezzlement worth billions of rupees, not a single document filed in the case can prove a misappropriation of even Rs10.
Muazzam Butt, another counsel for the minister, said the commission’s legality has been challenged in the Peshawar High Court and the case is pending. “When the commission has no legal standing, then who is its DG?”
After hearing arguments from both sides, the judge granted the suspect’s physical custody to the EC.
“It is not the EC but rather the Pervez Commission,” Ziaullah told the media outside the courtroom. “I opposed the chief minister’s decision to include the Qaumi Watan Party in the provincial government and that is the reason I have been arrested,” he said.
The minister also said that there was dispute over a mine in the chief minister’s hometown of Nowshera. According to Ziaullah, he was being punished for filing cases against “Khattak’s people in various mining-related cases. And for denying or stripping his people of licences.”
NAB also obtained 12-day custody of former Pakistan Peoples Party minister Nawabzada Mehmood Zeb Khan along with nine others on Friday.
NAB stated Zeb and the other suspects abused their authority to illegally allot 500 acres of land with proven phosphate deposits to Rukhsana Javed who illegally excavated the mineral in collaboration with Ehtishamul Mulk. The latter is the first cousin of Zeb, who was then the minister of the minerals department.
The loss caused by their ‘illegal activity’ to the national exchequer was estimated at Rs360 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.