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Pakistan

Web Desk
March 25, 2020

Accountability court extends physical remand of Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief till April 7

Pakistan

Web Desk
Wed, Mar 25, 2020

LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday extended the physical remand of the Editor-in-Chief of the Jang and Geo Media Group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman (MSR), till April 7 in a case pertaining to the purchase of a piece of land more than three decades ago.

In the hearing held into the case earlier today, the court had asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to refrain from bringing up political arguments to justify the arrest of MSR.

At the hearing on Wednesday morning, Judge Jawadul Hasan presided over the proceedings and heard the arguments made by the NAB prosecutor, who asked for further physical remand of the veteran journalist.

On March 12, MSR had been arrested over a 34-year-old property transaction by NAB. Despite presenting evidence of the transaction, MSR was arrested by the accountability body in violation of prior court orders. An accountability court on March 13 had given MSR's custody to NAB for a 12-day physical remand. 

"The land that was transferred to MSR 34 years ago was transferred illegally by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA)," the prosecutor told the court at the hearing today. "LDA transferred the land to MSR on the directives of former Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif," the prosecutor alleged.

"The proper rules and procedures for the transfer of the land over to MSR were not followed. LDA made the mistake of transferring the land over to MSR in bulk," the prosecutor argued. "The land was allotted to MSR at three different places," the prosecutor said.

"MSR illegally got the land allotment transferred to a single place," the prosecutor said before the judge.

However, the judge reprimanded the NAB official at this point, telling him not to indulge in political arguments. The court also questioned NAB why it needed further physical remand of MSR.

"We have summoned the former DG LDA as well. The former DG LDA has assured us of his cooperation, and he will get back to us with a detailed answer after he has reviewed the documents pertaining to the allotment and transfer of land to MSR," the prosecutor said.

The court also asked NAB to explain how the land in question could have been transferred over to MSR by the LDA before the authority had taken possession of it. "LDA can only transfer over the rights to a land after it has taken possession of it," the court reminded the prosecutor.

The court ordered NAB to produce the record regarding the possession of the land by the LDA. After the arguments of the prosecutor were finished, the council for MSR presented the defense team's version.

"This is the first time in the history of NAB that such a case is being heard. The NAB Chairman personally ordered the arrest of MSR," the defense counsel said. "Chairman NAB violated the laws of the body by ordering the arrest," the counsel added.

"MSR has already provided NAB with all the record it needs. He has also presented himself before the body whenever he has been summoned. NAB is operating beyond the limits of the law in this case,' the defense counsel argued.

The counsel argued that an arrest cannot be made while investigations into a case are still ongoing. "This is the only case in which the NAB chairman wanted an arrest to be made quickly,' the counsel noted.

"How many owners of the land in question are there?" the court asked the NAB prosecutor during the hearing. "There is only one owner of this land," the prosecutor replied.

However, the counsel for the defense disputed this claim. "There are seven owners of the land under investigation," the defense counsel said. "The claim by NAB that there is only one owner of the land is false," the counsel added.

After hearing the arguments of both parties in the case, the court decided to extend the physical remand of MSR till April 7.

MSR files bail petition in LHC

MSR has filed a bail petition in the LHC, stating the NAB had arrested him illegally and that he was suffering from several diseases.

The anti-graft watchdog had violated its SOP's prior to the arrest, the petition said.

They could not find anything on me during investigation, the petition added.