Checks and balances: PHC stops Ehtesab Commission from arresting secretary mines

EC seeks additional police at court when former minister Ziaullah Afridi will be presented today


Our Correspondent July 23, 2015
Peshawar High Court. PHOTO: PPI

PESHAWAR: A day after the Ehtesab Commission (EC) raided the house of the mines and mineral secretary, Peshawar High Court directed EC to refrain from arresting the secretary till it issues the next order. The high court bench comprising Justice Nisar Hussain Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth issued the decision on Wednesday.

Secretary Mines and Minerals Mian Waheeduddin challenged the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Ehtesab Commission (KPEC) Act 2014 and the enquiry into his work. The respondents to his petition are EC’s director general, prosecutor general, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairperson, its director general and provincial advocate general.

An arrest warrant for Waheeduddin was issued earlier based on charges of corrupt practices in the mines department.

Pressure building

Abdul Latif Afridi and Muhammad Muazzam Butt argued the case and said the petitioner was appointed as the secretary on July 15, 2014 on BPS-20. In September 2014, the chief minister summoned the petitioner, DG and the staff of the department to confront Saleem Mughal, a representative of a company called MS Tony Pak, and question the action of department against it.

“It was explained to the CM that action was taken against the firm as it was excavating antimony from mines at Chogor, Chitral and selling it illegally in China. The reception of the explanation could not change the [fearful] environment for the secretary and others,” the petition read.

It’s elemental my dear

It stated the mines and mineral development department launched action against illegal mining at Mamakhel in Nowshera from October to December 2014, and registered various FIRs, revealing MC Tony Pak was illegal mining.

No action was taken against those nominated in the FIRs, the court learnt. However, the secretary dismissed the appeal of MS Tony Pak in April as it was allegedly selling antimony to China illegally, causing huge losses to the government.

The department also formed a special team to assess the under-reporting of raw material being used by seven cement factories operating in the province. “It was reported all cement factories concealed the utilisation of raw minerals and have grossly under-reported, which as per the assessment report, amounted to a loss of Rs1.6 billion to the provincial government,” stated Waheeduddin, in the petition.

A matter of NAB

Prior to EC’s investigation, NAB was also dealing with the same matter. As per procedure, any enquiry by EC is therefore illegal, said the petition. Also, the arrest of a person during enquiry is not in accordance with the law and violates articles 9, 10 and 10-A of Constitution, it added. The commission has violated Section 35 (3) of KPEC Act, hence acted without jurisdiction "with mala fide intention and in an unfair manner".

The secretary requested the court to declare the KPEC Act 2014 as ultra-vires of the constitution and declare EC does not have the jurisdiction to perform any such enquiry.

The court on hearing the preliminary arguments issued notices to the respondents and directed that the secretary should not be arrested until the court issues its next order. The court fixed August 6 as next hearing date.

Ziaullah’s case

The EC has sought additional police force in the premises of the Ehtesab Court where former minister for mines and minerals Ziaullah Afridi will be produced on Thursday (today). Further custody in the illegal mining case will be requested. PHC will also hear Ziaullah’s petition against illegal custody.

“It is intimated that former minister Ziaullah Afridi will be produced in Ehtesab Court on July 23, you are requested to provide additional riot police with one armoured vehicle for maintaining law and order,” said the letter sent by the EC to Capital City Police on Wednesday. The letter added about 200 supporters of former minister gathered and harassed officials previously at court.

Ziaullah was arrested on July 9 in a mining scam and is currently in the custody of the commission.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2015. 

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