ISLAMABAD: Expressing a lack of confidence in the National Accountability
Bureau (NAB), the Supreme Court on Thursday transferred the Dr Arsalan Iftikhar case to Federal Tax Ombudsman Dr Shoaib Suddle – an officer believed close to President Asif Ali Zardari.
Per the verdict that had been reserved by the two-member bench the other day, Dr Suddle would act as a one-man commission to investigate the Dr Arsalan-Riaz case within a month. Suddle is a former senior policeman and has expertise in probing into financial matters as well.The reserved verdict was announced by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, who headed the bench that heard the case.
“We are of the opinion that in order to keep matters clear of any subjective perceptions, it would be appropriate if the inquiry is entrusted to someone with relevant seniority, experience and standing,” the court noted. Citing reason for handing over investigation to Dr Shoaib Suddle, Justice Khawaja said the professionalism and thoroughness of the inquiry undertaken by him in the suo motu case regarding ISAF containers scam convinced them to refer this inquiry to him.
He was also authorized to probe into the accusations of Malik Riaz Hussain, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, Salman Ali Khan and all those others “who may be found involved in criminal activities in the light of our earlier order of the court dated 14.6.2012 and the observations made in Thursday’s order”. He would specify the legal provisions and offenses, if any, which might be attracted in the case based on the fact finding undertaken by the commission, the order said.
Suddle would also inquire into and ascertain such facts as might be relevant, connected with or ancillary to the determination of the foregoing matters and to set the machinery of the state in motion so that all those who might have committed illegal acts were pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigor of the law. The bench also ordered that the entire record available with NAB that related to the matter would be handed over to the commission, whereas the registrar’s office would also provide copies of the record of this petition. The one-man commission is also given the following powers and he may seek such further orders as may be considered necessary:-
“(i) he shall 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 mentioned hereinabove;
(ii) 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;
iii) the commission shall be authorized to collect evidence within and outside Pakistan according to prevailing laws on the subject; iv) the commission is required to complete this task within a period of thirty days after receipt of the copy of this order.
The bench also tasked the commission with inquiring into conduct of SP Faisal Bashir Memon and DSP Tahir Malik, who might have submitted “false, dishonest or deliberately misleading statements” in the court during these proceedings or during inquiries ordered by the court. 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 Interior Ministry, the order said.
Accepting objections of Dr Arsalan’s counsel regarding NAB’s investigation into the issue, the bench noted that they had concluded that any inquiry by NAB in the matter would not be free from perception of partiality or bias or lack of competence. “To meet the ends of justice and to ensure a fair, impartial, honest and competent inquiry, the same should be transferred to some other person or agency to act independently, fairly and justly,” the bench noted the reason for transferring of the investigation process. – PT