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March 15, 2019

SC disposes of case against Khokhar brothers

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March 15, 2019

LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday disposed of a suo motu against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Afzal Khokhar and his brother MPA Saiful Malook Khokhar regarding the allegations of land grabbing and directed the Interior Ministry to remove their names from the Exit Control List (ECL).

A three-member bench comprising Justice Manzoor Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah issued the order at the SC’s Lahore Registry. The Khokhar brothers appeared before the court along with their counsel Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon while the officials of Anti -Corruption Establishment (ACE), Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Board of Revenue (BoR) and district government were also present in the court.

Former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had taken the suo motu and issued orders to put the names of the two on the ECL after a complaint was made against them by some overseas Pakistanis who had accused the two of illegally occupying their land.

An ACE official told the bench that as many as five cases had been registered against the Khokhar brothers on charges of illegally occupying private lands. He said investigation was in progress in all the cases.

Advocate Bhoon pointed out that applications had been filed for cancellation of the cases. Justice Manzoor Malik in his remarks said that the bench does not have information about the circumstances in which the suo motu was taken.

“Those blessed with authority by God should use it with caution,” he remarked. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said that the court can’t go beyond its jurisdiction. “All institutions should function in their own sphere,” he added.

Justice Malik directed the ACE and other departments to decide the cases and inquiries against Khokhar brothers strictly in accordance with law and without being influenced by the court’s proceedings.

Justice Malik also rejected a suggestion of LDA Director General Amina Imran Khan to refer the matter to the National Accountability Bureau and asked her to take independent decisions instead of using the court’s forum. “Do your own work and let the apex court discharge its duty," he added.

The court asked if the LDA and the Member Board of Revenue Tariq Najeeb, present in the court, had taken any action against the accused before the suo motu was taken. To which, the revenue official replied that they had compiled reports that held Khokhars guilty.

“Then take action as per the law,” Justice Malik responded, and added that judges aren’t prosecutors, neither can they investigate. The apex court also directed the conclusion of cases against the Khokhar brothers in the ACE as per the law.

The LDA director general said that anti-corruption officials were harassing her. “You have the law, take the legal course, don’t include us,” Justice Shah responded. The bench disposed of the suo motu proceedings and directed the government departments to proceed with the matter in accordance with law. On the request of the Khokhar brothers’ counsel, the bench ordered removal of their names from the ECL.

On Dec 25, 2018, Afzal Khokhar was arrested outside the Lahore registry. He was granted post-arrest bail by a judicial magistrate at Model Town courts the next day. On December 28, 2018, the SC had ordered the ACE to complete its investigation against the Khokhar brothers and to register a case against all those Revenue Department officials who were involved in allowing consolidation of the disputed land.

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