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July 8, 2020

Defence counsel Amjad Parvez argues before LHC: NAB reference doesn’t say Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman committed corruption

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July 8, 2020

LAHORE: The Jang-Geo Media Group's Editor-in- Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was illegally arrested in a 34-year-old concocted case relating to private property for criticising the incumbent government, argued veteran journalist's lawyer before a division bench of the Lahore High Court.

Pleading for post-arrest bail before a two-member LHC bench, headed by Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, he argued that no offence had been made out against his client and he had been arrested only for criticising the government. Justice Farooq Haider is the other member of the bench. The lawyer said there was not a single word in the reference which showed that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had committed corruption.

Amjad Parvez said NAB investigated Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and obtained nothing from him. He said general power of attorney was registered with the registrar on May 22, 1986 in favour of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by seven private owners of 180-kanal land. The counsel said that on June 4, 1986, Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, on behalf of the private owners, had requested the director-general of Lahore Development Authority for interim development. On July 22, 1986, the director land development issued a letter, denying Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman's request but offered him 30 per cent exemption. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman accepted the exemption offer and made all required payments.

"The LDA never raised any objection to the allotment of the land during the last 34 years," said Amjad Parvez. "The real owners of the plots also never complained," he said adding that the LDA had never expressed concerns or complained about the exemption granted to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and his power of attorney. "The LDA did not even become a complainant in the case," he said, adding that his client had appeared before NAB Lahore and cooperated in the investigation.

The lawyer said that a reference had been filed against his client in which it had been stated that he had caused a loss of Rs143m to the national exchequer and violated the land exemption policy. He said even if exemption was granted in violation of the policy, NAB had no authority to arrest and prosecute his client. He pointed out that the LDA laws were there to deal with such situations. He said under Section 9, Subsection 6 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, it was not a matter of public office-holder, because Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman never held any public office, and there were no proofs that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman took any monetary benefit from any public office-holder.

Having said that official powers were not abused in the first place, Amjad Parvez argued that the neither warrants were not issued against the persons who had been accused of misusing their powers, nor any arrest took place. The counsel maintained that after 2019 amendments to the NAB law, allegations of misuse of power could not be proved unless it was established that some monetary benefits had been obtained. He said Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was accused of being abetted by a public office-holder, who had not been arrested in the case. He contended that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was being discriminated against in the case as the prime accused, and others had not been arrested. Amjad Parvez cited the Maryam Nawaz case, wherein a legal point regarding implementation of two laws was discussed in detail and the court had granted her bail on that point.

He stated that the NAB chairman was not even the relevant authority to issue Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman's arrest warrants, adding that there was no evidence that the veteran journalist had sought any personal benefit from any public office-holder. No dispute ever arose between the land owners, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and the LDA, but all of a sudden an irrelevant person filed a complaint, and surprisingly NAB arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman at the complaint verification stage.

The Pakistan Bar Council Executive Committee Chairman Azam Nazir Tarar also appeared in the court to represent the PBC viewpoint on the arrest of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. He stated that the LDA, at the time, had exempted 54 plots of one-kanal each against private owners’ land of 180 kanals, in accordance with the law. Azam Nazir Tarar stated that he had come to the court on the request of Pakistan Bar Council. He argued that the matter was between the authority and an allottee, and if the authority had no objection over the transaction, how come a private person could complain against it. Tarar said the officer-bearers of journalist organisations from across country had come to attend the case.

The SC Bar President Qalb-e-Abbas said that how could Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman be guilty if LDA allotted him plots under its exemption rules. Amjad Parvez was on his feet when the court deferred the hearing till Wednesday (today). He will continue his arguments today.