ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court yesterday reserved its judgment on transfer of the Punjab land encroachment case from Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Additional Prosecutor General Zubair Ahmed Farooq pleaded two first information reports (FIRs) were registered against the Bahria Town administration for acquiring 1,401 kanals of land in Malakal and Azizal near Rawat on fake identities and forged documents.

At least 14 persons, including the Punjab Revenue Department officials, property tycoon Malik Riaz, his son Ahmed Ali Riaz and other office-bearers of Bahria Town were involved in the case.

Ex-Bahria Town GM Col (r) Akhtar Saeed who was one of the accused in the land encroachment case said he had filed an application in the NAB, stating they were victims in the case and not culprits. He contended they had paid Rs 85 million to purchase the land. He added Ashfaq Ahmed, a property dealer, in connivance with the officials of the revenue department, had committed fraud with Bahria Town as he had not provided the land in spite of receiving the money.

He added former NAB chairman Admiral Fasih Bukhari, taking action on the application, had written two letters to ACE on November 21 and 22, 2011, for transfer of the case to NAB on which the anti-graft body had taken the case record from the ACE court into its custody.

Additional Prosecutor General Zubair Ahmed Farooq said the NAB had exonerated Malik Riaz, his son Ali Riaz and Patwari Muhammad Rizwan who had paid Rs 20 million to the Bureau.

Punjab Additional Advocate General Razzaq A Mirza contended the letters written by the NAB chairman were illegal and unlawful. The Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench validated an investigation carried out by the Anti-Corruption Establishment into the case. It had also directed the anti-corruption court to decide the application concerning transfer of the case.

Razzaq said the then Punjab governor Latif Khosa had passed an order that the other accused in the case should also be investigated and a report submitted to him. Justice Jawwad asked the AAG whether the governor had any judicial power and could pass such orders.

Advocate General Naveed Rasool who was present in the court pointed out that the governor had no authority to pass a judicial order. His action was unlawful as he was only a titular head of the province, he said.

The court asked NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Fozi Zafar how the NAB chairman could order transfer of the case record from ACE. The DPG said the NAB chairman had the power to transfer a case from ACE to NAB under section 16A of National Accountability Ordinance. The bench observed he was not assisting the court satisfactorily. Justice Jawwad remarked: “He is hardly providing any assistance and has no knowledge of the facts of the case.”

Advocate on Record (AOR) MS Khattak submitted an application for general adjournment on the ground that Aitzaz Ahsan, the Bahria Town counsel, was out of the country on an official visit. The court observed that it was 11th time that Aitzaz had sought adjournment in this case since 2013.

Aitzaz’s junior, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, requested the court to adjourn the case till Monday (September 7). Justice Jawwad told him though he was not a lawyer of the Supreme Court, he could argue, but he refused to give arguments. The court then asked the advocate on record: “You argue Aitzaz is abroad, but do not have instructions from the client in this connection.”

After hearing arguments, the court reserved the judgment.