The family of Minister for Mines and Minerals Ziaullah Afridi has challenged his arrest in Peshawar High Court, calling the move illegal. The minister was arrested by the Ehtesab Commission (EC) on Thursday.
Hidayatullah Afridi, the brother of Ziaullah, filed the petition requesting the court to direct the EC to produce the detained minister. Hidayatullah said there are no legal grounds for the minister’s arrest and that he should be released. His petition also stated National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had already initiated enquiry against the mines and minerals department and arrested others accused of similar cases.
The brother’s petition stated the EC director general, prosecutor general, investigation director, EC investigation officer, Hayatabad SHO and the judge of the commission as respondents. Two counsels, Latif Afridi and Muazzam Butt, will contest the case in the high court.
What’s mine is yours
Ziaullah was arrested in a case related to illegal mining and appointments which, according to the EC, caused a loss of Rs150 billion. He is currently in the custody of the commission under a 13-day remand.
“[As the minister] the detainee [...] checked illegal and irregular mining; about 350 cases were registered against the offenders,” read the petition. “[Senior officials] threatened him of dire consequences over the issue.”
According to the petition, Ziaullah had been produced in court and no progress had been made by the prosecutor. It added records did not show any evidence of the allegations made against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf minister, yet the court remanded him for 13 days.
“You, as the then special assistant to chief minister on mineral development and now minister, failed to exercise your authority to prevent loss to the exchequer caused by illegal mining rather you wilfully facilitated the same for your personal gains,” stated the grounds of arrest against Ziaullah. “You issued certain orders/notifications which caused loss to the exchequer in terms of revenue in billions.”
Hidayatullah was of the view that his brother was arrested for opposing the wrong policies and acts of the government.
Hidayatullah’s petition added that NAB had initiated an enquiry into mines and minerals department cases and had arrested four people. The file pertains to illegal mining of Mama Khel district in Nowshera.
“The arrest of the minister is not justified when viewed in terms of Section 38 and 36 [that deal with arrests and investigation] of the K-P Ehtesab Commission Act 2014.” The petition said the minister was not absconding and has not refused to cooperate.
Although the arrest of Ziaullah has caused a stir, Minister for Information and Higher Education Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani has asked the public to refrain from protesting against the arrest as the EC was a fully independent body. This was mentioned in a handout issued on Monday.
The statement quoted Ghani as saying Ziaullah was arrested by the commission over charges of corruption and the court would decide whether he is guilty or not. Ghani added the EC empowered the public which can now hold any government department or dignitary accountable in cases of corruption or poor performance.
Making yet another arrest in the same department, the commission arrested Mines and Minerals Assistant Director Mir Zaman on Monday as a co-accused in Ziaullah’s case.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an official of the EC said during the interrogation Ziauallah revealed Mir Zaman was also involved. He was now being interrogated.
Ziaullah has been arrested over charges of intentionally putting a ban on new leases while carrying out mining at government-owned mines and inflicting a loss of billions on the exchequer on a daily basis. He was also accused of illegal transfers and postings.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.