Wednesday May 29, 2024

Private property case: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s physical remand extended till 28th

By Nauman Wahab
April 19, 2020

By Numan Wahab

LAHORE: An accountability court on Saturday extended physical remand of Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman till April 28 in a case pertaining to the purchase of a private piece of land more than 30 years ago.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) produced Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman before Accountability Court Judge Jawadul Hassan amid tight security. It was the fourth remand hearing of the Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief before the court. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has been in NAB custody for the last 37 days in connection with an investigation into the “documentary evidence”, which is already in NAB possession.

As the hearing commenced on Saturday, NAB Prosecutor Asim Mumtaz implored the court to extend physical remand of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for 15 days. However, the court adjourned the proceedings for a while when Amjad Parvez, counsel for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, informed the court that he had received his client’s investigation report at a short notice and it was not possible for him to argue on the case without going through it. The court, while accepting defence counsel’s plea, adjourned the court for a while.

As the hearing resumed, the NAB prosecutor, in his preliminary statement, informed the court that the bureau had called Director Land Development of the Lahore Development Authority Bashir Ahmad and confronted him with Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. The prosecutor informed the court that a confrontation was also been made between the then chairman Lahore Development Authority Humayun Faiz Rasool and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said Humayun stated on record that in the committee room of the LDA, the then chief minister Punjab Mian Nawaz Sharif had asked him whether he had received an application from Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman himself was present in the committee room at that time. The judge intervened and asked the prosecutor what was the nexus between the then chairman LDA’s statement and the matter in hand.

The prosecutor replied that the exemption, which was granted to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was unprecedented and it could have not been possible without him [Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman] being in good terms with the then chief minister Punjab. The prosecutor, in a bid to justify his plea of extension in physical remand, stated that the bureau had sought different records from different departments concerning property under discussion. However, due to lockdown situation, records’ acquisition had been delayed. Moreover, he added, “there are certain SOPs [standard operating procedures] regarding acquisition of documents from the government departments. “Until we keep getting documents, we will continue the investigation proceedings.”

The prosecutor, while referring to a 1978 notification of federal government related to the guidelines for maps of houses, stated that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman also violated that notification while getting the map of his house approved for the said property. Moreover, the prosecutor while admitting that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was granted exemption for 54 kanals of land, objected that he allegedly got 59 kanals allotted instead. The prosecutor further alleged that the additional four kanals and 12 marlas was the state land, meant for roads, which Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman got illegally allotted.

The prosecutor implored the court to extend physical remand of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman as the bureau needed him for two more confrontations with officers of different departments. Interestingly, the NAB prosecutor, while concluding his arguments, alleged out of nowhere that the Jang Group was trying to influence the court proceedings through a media campaign. The counsel for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman promptly replied to the NAB prosecutor allegations that his client and his media house had not committed any contempt of the court. The counsel stated that not a single piece of written and visual content was produced by his client’s media house related to the court proceedings and the court orders. However, his client can highlight his grievances or whatever he wanted to say in his defence against NAB, which was his legal and fundamental right, the counsel added. “People normally do not turn up at NAB after receiving a call-up notice, but Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman did. The [Jang-Geo Media Group] has never run anything against the court. “If something like that were to happen, I would be the first to surrender to the court,” Amjad told the court.

The defence counsel stated that his client could not say anything in his defence but NAB can leak confidential information of its interrogation room to the rivals of his client. The counsel stated that NAB, with mala-fide intention, took a picture of his client in the lockup through a professional photographer and handed that over to his rivals, who held a media trial of his client. The counsel, while quoting a high court judgement in Ahad Cheema case, stated that the court had shown its resentment when a photograph of the accused was leaked to the media by some NAB officials. The counsel argued that presumption of innocence is legal and fundamental right of every individual, and even murderers and terrorists cannot be denied that right. However, NAB, acting in a bad taste and maliciously, arranged and leaked a picture of his client to the rival media houses for his media trial, Amjad added. The counsel argued that he was unable to understand what NAB was going to achieve through extension in his client's physical remand. The case is of documentary evidence and the investigation officer in the case had each and every record in hand now, the counsel added.

The bureau had made all confrontations of its claimed witnesses with his client, which is on record and even some had confronted his client twice, the counsel added. Amjad stated that previous private owners of the land were confronted with his client along with the then LDA officials, what else the bureau wanted to investigate now. He stated that NAB was showing bias in this particular case. Amjad further argued that it was a test case for NAB as all international media was covering the case. However, it was a reality that NAB had no sufficient evidence at the time of arrest of his client, he added. Amjad said the NAB prosecutor stated that the side plan of Johar Town housing scheme did not reach him due to lockdown, but bureau is here to take extension of physical custody of his client amid the lockdown.

Pointing out to NAB allegations regarding allotment of extra land to his client, Amjad stated that even if it was assumed as correct, payment was made for that extra piece of land according to the documentary proofs. However, to argue on that allegation was too early as that was a trial matter, Amjad concluded. The court, after hearing arguments from both sides, reserved its judgement for a while. Later, the court extended physical remand of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman for 10 days, by April 28.

During the previous remand hearing, Amjad Parvez had argued that NAB was relying on exemption document as prime piece of evidence. The bare reading of the exemption document reveals that exemption was not granted to a single person, as the word “every owner” had been used in the exemption document. “There are seven owners of the land under investigation," the defence counsel said. "The claim by NAB that there is only one owner of the land is false," Amjad added. However, that would be deeper appreciation of the evidence which is not permissible at this stage, the counsel added.

The counsel for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman argued that the case against his client was of documentary evidence, but NAB had turned it into vengeance. “There is not any kind of recovery to be made from my client for which NAB is seeking physical custody of my client,” the counsel added. The counsel argued that the court had to deal with the remand matter according to the National Accountability Ordinance, but the parameters of the investigation are bound to Code of Criminal Procedure and when there is nothing to recover from Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, then there is no justification for extension in his physical remand, Amjad added. NAB is wasting court’s time as the NAB officials on every hearing come up with ordinary grounds seeking physical custody of his client, Amjad added.