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Shahzad Akbar now wears three hats

By Tariq Butt
December 04, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Barrister Shahzad Akbar now wears three hats – Special Assistant on Accountability and Interior Ministry and chief of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) with the status of minister of state. He can now be considered one of the powerful persons in the government set-up.

Calls were made to Shahzad Akbar’s cell phone and messages sent by The News to know his views on the addition of Interior Ministry to his assignment but there was no response from him.

However, he told Geo TV immediately after the announcement of his new task that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s focus will be on curbing money-laundering, including the matters related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to avoid any negative impact from the organisation.

Shahzad Akbar said that the FIA needs restructuring and pointed out that its employees were low paid. To a question, he said the government’s premier agenda of eliminating corruption and carrying out accountability will also be carried out by the FIA.

However, he said that eradication of corruption was mainly the job of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). He was of the view that the FIA law was not very stringent and claimed that the agency would not target political rivals of the government.

Shahzad Akbar was already serving as the special assistant on accountability and the ARU chief, which works under Prime Minister Imran Khan. The third assignment was quickly given to him after Wajid Zia, who had headed the Supreme Court constituted Panama Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Sharif family, was made the FIA’s director general. On the basis of the JIT report, three references were filed in an accountability court of Islamabad against deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and one case was submitted against former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Wajid Zia was serving as the additional director general of the FIA when the apex court had made him chief of the JIT, which included senior officials from several organisations, including the intelligence agencies.

Shahzad Akbar was seen in an officially released photograph sitting with Wajid Zia during the latter’s meeting with the prime minister after his appointment as the FIA head. This reflected that he, as the special assistant on Interior Ministry, will be handling the FIA especially new high-profile cases, which will be instituted against different persons.

A senior official told The News that Bashir Memon, who tendered his resignation as the FIA director general after Wajid Zia’s appointment for not providing him the “courtesy” of staying in the office when he was nearing superannuation, has not even privately voiced too many grudges or complaints against Interior Minister Brig (R) Ijaz Shah under whose control the FIA falls. However, there were certain disagreements over according protocol to the minister at the airport and some transfers and postings in the FIA.

Meanwhile, immediately after issuance of his appointment letter, Wajid Zia has surrendered at least eighteen senior officials belonging to the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP), who were serving in the FIA, their notifications, copies of which are available with The News, showed.

The official said that these officers of grades 20 and 19 enjoyed good reputation and no complaints were pending against them. However, he said it was up to the new director general to make his own team to come up to the expectations of the appointing authority. The surrendered officers were directed by the establishment division to report to it.

All the notifications were issued on the same day, Nov 29. The grade 20 officers included Muhammad Wisal Fakhar Sultan, Muhammad Waqar Abbasi, Tariq Chohan, Akhtar Hayat, Irfan Ali Baloch, and Faisal Ali Raja.

The grade 19 officials were Umar Riaz, Mansoorul Haq, Flt. Lt. (retd) Qaiser Bashir Makhdoom, Mohibullah Khan Mandokhail, Muhammad Kashif, Abdul Ghaffar Qaisrani, Muhammad Abdul Qadir Qamar, Dr Muhammad Athar Waheed, Waqas Hassan, Capt (R) Jawwad Qamar, Muhammad Shahzad Asif Khan, and Dr Muhammad Atif Ikran.