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October 6, 2019

NAB defends arrest of ex-federal secretary

National

October 6, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has clarified a news item published in daily The News and Jang by Ansar Abbasi about Salman Ghani and termed it factually incorrect and misleading.

The fact is that Salman Ghani was member of Punjmin Board in the capacity of Chairman P&D Punjab. As per Punjmin Act, no representative on behalf of Punjmin Act could attend board meeting. However he sent his representative to attend 69th Board meeting of Punjmin.

Related: 70-year-old ex-fed secretary arrested by NAB on flimsy grounds

In that meeting it was decided to negotiate terms to form JV with M/s ERPL which was a fraud company having a paid up capital of just Rs2.5 million.

The minutes of 69th board meeting were sent to chairman P&D that if he had any observation on the decisions taken in meeting, he could object that, but he did not make any objection. Hence, these minutes were approved. Afterwards, he telephonically discussed the project with MD Punjmin and pressurized him to forward proposal as is clearly evident from the summary of the MD. So he was well aware of the proposed JV and privy to the offence.

Later on, summary to Chief Minister was forwarded through chairman P&D and he did not bother to examine it in the relevant section of P&D but malafidely on same day recommended proposed JV with very positive marks without taking into account that a govt. department is handing over iron ore reserves of billions of dollars, to a private firm without open competition.

As chairman P&D and member of Punjmin Board he was required to inquire and ensure the implementation of act of Punjmin, license of lease and govt. rules which do not allow subletting of lease of Punjmin and even that without proper open competition. Here there are very serious questions on the role of Salman Ghani if he was not privy to the lease being given to M/s ERPL.

How come he was discussing the matter with MD Punjmin even before the summary is initiated. It is mentioned in the noting part of summary that the matter has been discussed in detail with chairman P&D.

Secondly, if Punjmin was unable to do the exploration work, was ERPL able to do this job of billions of dollars assets of Pakistan with 25 lakh financial health and could it get that exploration lease independently. The answer is a big no.

Fact is ERPL was neither having any financial strength nor technical expertise then why chairman P&D supported this JV as if ERPL was a big name in the field of iron ore exploration. Thirdly, Salman Ghani took stance before NAB team that he was not an expert of the mining field. Then why he not marked the summary to his Section Chief who was dealing with mining issues. Rather he gave very strong positive note on same day when the summary is received to him i.e., 17.11.2007. How much summaries Salman Ghani endorsed during his tenure as Chairman P&D without getting input from his specialized team and that too in a complicated field of mining. Lastly, Salman Ghani took stance before NAB that he had no power to raise any objection on the proposal sent by the concerned Administrative Department. This position is also against the Rules of Business. As per these rules, P&D has complete authority to examine, support or oppose any proposal of any department having economic impact for the province.

Due to all these reasons, the Honorable Lahore High Court also rejected the petition of ERPL challenging the decision of Punjab govt to cancel its JV agreement with Punjmin. Now NAB has arrested Salman Ghani and his physical custody is granted by honorable Accountability Court, this matter is subjudice before the court. He has all the right to defend himself in the court of law.

Conveying such kind of wrong impression to the public without official point of view of NAB is allegedly a deliberate attempt to tarnish the image of NAB. The continued incorrect and concocted reporting of Ansar Abbasi, Editor Investigation of daily The News seems to be malicious campaign of Jang Group against NAB as an institution. NAB hopes that in true spirit of responsible journalism, an effort should always be made to kindly have official point of view of NAB. NAB has requested Jang Group especially The News, Jang and Geo TV to kindly avoid speculations on the ongoing inquiries and investigations of NAB but all our requests went in vein.

Ansar Abbasi adds: The NAB clarification confirms The News story which had disclosed that Ghani had not attended the 69th meeting of the BOD of Punjmin which had endorsed the agreement in question. The story, termed by the NAB as incorrect and misleading, was based on two facts. First, NAB’s own “Ground for Arrests” as reflected in its document and second, the response of the accused- Salman Ghani. Thus the story contained versions of both sides -- the allegations of the NAB and response of the accused. The anger reflected in the NAB’s clarification against the Jang Group as well as this correspondent, appears to be a reflection of Bureau’s own frustration in the backdrop of growing no-confidence of the superior judiciary including the Supreme Court, government, business community, bureaucracy, political parties and others against NAB’s working. What NAB is now alleging against the retired officer through this clarification, was not reflected in its “Grounds of Arrest”. It is also relevant to mention here that in the same case the LHC while accepting the bail application of Muhammad Subtain Khan, the then Minister for Mines and Minerals, recently had pointed out that the NAB in 2013 had closed the inquiry into the matter noting that no loss had been caused to the public exchequer as the contract was cancelled by the Punjab government. The chairman NAB re-opened the case.

The following is relevant part of the LHC verdict, which is nothing less than a charge sheet against NAB and its decision making:

“But surprisingly without bringing on record any fresh ground or to digging out any hidden truth, the inquiry was reinitiated on the same allegations vide letter dated 26.04.2018 issued by the DG NAB. The reasons and circumstances were, apparently, neither brought before the chairman NAB, nor he had formed opinion on the basis of material. He had just ordered the re-opening of inquiry without holding any official of the NAB responsible for closure of the inquiry. It is not the whims and designs unsubstantiated by the fresh disclosed facts on the basis of which it could re-open the closed inquiry in a slipshod manner.

The reasons, if any, are shrouded in mystery. Needless to observe here that with greater powers always lie the greatest responsibilities.

The powers of the chairman are also structured by law and conscience, and therefore, he must be guided by them and not by unperceived perception infatuated by his subjective approach so as to use his discretion for taking some kind an imaginary blaming act. The prosecution has not alleged that the petitioner has got any kickbacks, made financial gains or caused any corresponding loss to the State.

It is also not their case that the possession of the site was handed over to the ERPL who had started excavation and exploration of the minerals without giving any benefit to the State.”

The News stands by its story.

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