Sunday, January 17, 2021

NAB to close another inquiry against Khawaja Saad Rafique: Lack of evidence or ability?

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In the latest development, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Lahore, has recommended closure of an inquiry against former railways minister and Pakistan Mus­lim League-Nawaz leader Khawaja Saad Rafique into the purchase of locomotives.

Media reports claim that the decision has been taken because of a lack of evidence to pursue the case against the former federal minister.  The recommendation was sent to NAB chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal on Tuesday, reported Dawn.

The anti-graft watchdog had initiated the investigation against the leader of the main opposition party on a complaint that he had procured the locomotives at exorbitant rates when he was railways minister.

Read more: NAB found 48 undeclared bank accounts of Khawaja Asif, reports

Sources claim that NAB had decided to close all those inquiries in which it did not have substantial evidence against the suspects.

It is important to note that in October 2020, closed an inquiry against Khawaja Saad Rafique for allegedly leasing railways land to his favorites during his term as the federal railways’ minister from 2013 till 2018.

NAB had started the probe in 2018 on basis of a complaint that alleged that Rafique leased pieces of railways land at Lahore’s Walton Road and the UED for 33 years to extend illegal benefits to some blue-eyed contractors. It claimed that the Pakistan Railways officials had also not verified the leasing process.

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According to sources, the graft buster could not find evidence to substantiate the claim of favoritism as the pieces of land were leased to the companies which had offered the highest bids.

How was Khawaja Saad Rafique given bail?

It is worth mentioning here that that former railway minister is allegedly a part of a case pertaining to the Paragon Housing Society scam. The NAB has been investigating the matter for the last two years. The case came under the limelight when the protesters came to roads to demand a fair and transparent investigation by the government into the Paragon Housing Society scam. “Our money has been looted”, protestors alleged.

The minister was given bail by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In its judgment, the apex court censured the anti-corruption graft for the lack of transparency and severe violations of fundamental rights of the accused person.

In the detailed, 87-page ruling, penned by Justice Maqbool Baqar, the court highlighted severe lapses in the NAB’s due process and legal procedure, the definition, and purpose of bail, and due processes in criminal cases. This judgment is the reason behind demanding to abolish the NAB.

The court noted about the NAB that “its conduct throughout this case is a clear manifestation of their utter disregard for the law, fair play, equity, and propriety”.

“In this country, it would be quite contrary to the concept of personal liberty enshrined in the Constitution that any person should be punished in respect of any matter, upon which, he has not been convicted or that in any circumstances, he should be deprived of his liberty upon only the belief that he will tamper with the witnesses if left at liberty, save in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Justice Baqar further underlined that “all civilized societies recognize the principle that punishment comes only after conviction, and the presumption of innocence subsist with the accused, till he is handed down the punishment after trial”. “It hardly needs any reiteration that the detention either pre-trial or during trial causes great hardship,” the judgment added.

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According to the judge, it was unfortunate that “even after 72 years since the creation of our country, and despite 47 years since the adoption of the Constitution, we have not been able to realize the spirit and essence of the ideals set out therein”.

Political commentators opine that the NAB seems to have failed to furnish admissible evidence in any evidence it has presented before the courts so far. Politically powerful men arrested by NAB and subsequently released by the courts for want of evidence is said to be a manifestation of the NAB’s poor performance. Analysts also believe that the NAB’s inefficiency also strengths the perception that it is being politically used to target political opponents.

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