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May 1, 2021

Ali Zafar’s role is ‘fact-checking’, not deciding fate of Shahzad Akbar

Top Story

May 1, 2021

SAPM Shahzad Akbar. File photo

ISLAMABAD: Senator Ali Zafar has been mandated by Prime Minister Imran Khan only to ensure that Jehangir Khan Tareen is getting a fair deal and faces no discrimination in the FIA’s investigation into the sugar scam.

When approached, Ali Zafar told The News that his mandate does not include reviewing the role in the scam of Barrister Shahzad Akbar, the PM’s advisor on interior and accountability.

He explained that his role is that of checking the facts of the case and hearing both sides of the story, on the basis of which he would submit his report to the prime minister. Ali Zafar said he would present his report to the prime minister sometime in May.

The prime minister had assured a group of PTI parliamentarians, who had met him recently to get some relief for JKT, that he would personally supervise the FIA investigation into the sugar scam. He also tasked PTI Senator and legal expert Ali Zafar to ascertain the facts of the investigation in the light of the reservations expressed by the ‘Tareen Group’ of PTI MPs.

The FIA, in the light of the findings and recommendations of the sugar commission, inquired into different aspects of the sugar scam and registered FIRs against owners of several sugar mills, sugar dealers and employees of sugar mills, including JKT and his associates.

According to official sources, once an FIR under the FIA law is registered, the investigation has to be conducted by FIA officers strictly according to the FIA Act, the Pakistan penal code, anti-money laundering law, criminal procedure code and the police act.

“None of these laws gives any role to the prime minister, interior minister, advisor on the interior or any senator or PTI parliamentarian nominated by the PM,” a source said, questioning the prime minister’s decision, which could be considered as ‘extraneous influence’ into a criminal investigation.

The source said that FIA officers are duty bound to investigate the matter as per the law and the facts of the case strictly on merit. The source said that Jehangir Tareen, former secretary general of PTI and a close associate of the PM, has already been alleging in a court of law that the cases against him and his associates are being driven from Islamabad. It has been alleged that the FIR registered against JKT was provided to the agency on a USB by Barrister Shahzad Akbar, advisor to the PM, and not as a result of an independent inquiry by FIA officials.

A government source, however, said that the prime minister has assigned Senator Ali Zafar for fact-checking, which in any case does not mean interfering in the agency’s probe. The government source said that the prime minister had expressed his trust in Shahzad Akbar even during his meeting with the Tareen group.

This fact-checking probe was ordered by the prime minister a few days before former DG FIA Bashir Memon levelled serious allegations of having been pressurised by the prime minister, Shahzad Akbar and law minister Farogh Nasim to initiate criminal cases against opposition leaders besides making a case against Justice Faez Isa.

Memon has also demanded the setting up of a judicial commission to probe into his allegations. However, the prime minister as well as Shahzad Akbar and Farogh Nasim rejected the former DG FIA’s allegations against them. Memon however insists that what he has revealed is nothing but the truth.