ISLAMABAD - Giving relief to Arsalan Iftikhar in his review petition, the Supreme Court on Thursday constituted one man commission comprising Dr Shoaib Suddle to investigate alleged unlawful business deals of Rs342 million between him and Malik Riaz Hussain.
A special bench, comprising Justice Jawad S Khwaja and Justice Arif Khilji which issued the reserved verdict ordered to retreat the case from the NAB and also issued notice to Attorney General Irfan Qadir over his “inappropriate actions”.
Announcing the reserved judgment, written by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, the court observed that any inquiry by NAB in the matter will not be free from perception of partiality or bias or lack of competence, therefore case investigation should be transferred to some other person or agency to act independently, fairly and justly.
Dr Muhammad Shoaib Suddl, incumbent Federal Tax Ombudsman, is a former Intelligence Bureau chief as well as a senior police officer having experience of investigations in the police and fiscal hierarchies. The 17-page judgment, appreciating Dr Shoaib’s professionalism and thoroughness of the inquiry undertaken by him in Isaf containers scam, said it persuaded the court to refer this inquiry to him.
The court granted judicial power to the commission and instructed for presenting report in 30 days. It directed the commission to probe into the culpability of Malik Riaz Hussain, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, Salman Ali Khan and all those who may be found involved in criminal activities in the light of its June 14 order, within a period of 30 days.
The bench enabled the commission to collect all evidence pertaining to the controversy and also sanctioned that trips abroad may be undertaken for collecting proof. Suddle would have the authority enjoyed by a judicial officer and would also investigate the protocol given to Malik Riaz by two police officers when the tycoon appeared before the Supreme Court on July 31.
The court asked Dr Shoaib to inquire into and ascertain such facts as may be relevant, connected with or ancillary to the determination of the foregoing matters and to set the State machinery in motion so that all those who may have committed illegal acts are pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigour of the law. It also asked him to “specify the legal provisions and offences, if any, which may be attracted in the case based on the fact finding undertaken by the commission”.
About the commission’s power, the court observed that Dr Shoaib Suddl would exercise all the powers envisioned in the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 and the powers of Judicial Officers for the purpose of carrying out the objects and he would be authorised to collect evidence within and outside Pakistan according to prevailing laws.
“He shall be free to avail the services of advocates, experts of forensic science, persons with relevant experience, including fiscal laws etc. State functionaries when called upon to do so shall provide necessary assistance to the Commission”, it added.
The court also asked the NAB to hand over the entire record of the case to the commission and the SC registrar office also directed to provide copies of the record of this petition and of SMC 05 of 2012 to the commission.
Expressing serious concern over the conduct of Attorney General for Pakistan in this case, the court also issued notice to him to explain his conduct as he was not a contesting party in the case and was only assigned the limited function, as an officer of the court and as the principal law officer of the federation, of setting the machinery of State in motion.
The judgment said: “We would not have tasked the Attorney General [Irfan Qadir] with any responsibility in this matter if he had made disclosure to us as to his professional association with the respondent Malik Riaz Hussain,” adding it’s a matter of concern that the AG did not make the requisite disclosure.
The court held that they had no reason to believe that the AGP has gone beyond the simple and limited act of “setting the machinery of the State in motion” as it was, therefore, disturbing to see that he chose to write a letter to the NAB chairman which is overstepping the remit of the Court June 14 order.
In June 14 order Attorney General was asked ‘to set the machinery of the State in motion so that all those who may have committed any illegal acts, including Malik Riaz Hussain, Dr. Arsalan, Salman Ali Khan etc. are pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigour of the law.’ The court also objected the NAB’s letters to SC registrar regarding his appearance before its team in Dr Arsalan case.
Regarding illegal protocol to Malik Riaz on his first arrival at SC by Faisal Bashir Memon SP and his immediate subordinate Tahir Malik DSP, the court observed that prima facie they have submitted false, dishonest or deliberately misleading statements in Court during these proceedings or during inquiries ordered by the Court.
In order to ensure that they receive due process, the court asked the commission to look into the facts relevant to the conduct of Faisal Bashir Memon SP and Tahir Malik DSP. “However, considering the foregoing aspects of the matter relating to these two officers, we consider it appropriate that the said officers are assigned duties and are kept posted at the Islamabad Police Headquarters during the course of the inquiry.”
The court said that the proceedings in the inquiry shall not preclude the departmental authorities from taking disciplinary proceedings against these two officers in accordance with law as has also been recommended by the inquiry committee of the Ministry of Interior.
Our Staff Reporter adds from Lahore: After announcement of the court verdict, Malik Riaz announced to challenge the new commission formed to probe Arsalan-Riaz case. Talking to reporters at the Lahore High Court premises, Riaz’ counsel Zahid Bukhari criticised the formation of the judicial commission, saying that it was illegal to form such commission on request of an individual.
Bukhari said Arsalan had not answered the allegations against him however he succeeded restraining NAB from probing the case by levelling baseless accusations. Expressing no confidence on the new panel, he said the apex court should have constituted the judicial commission after hearing both parties in the case.