LAHORE: The Lahore High Court asked the National Accountability Bureau to submit its response to a petition filed against the continued detention of Jang Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, in relation to a case of a property bought more than three decades ago.
A two-member bench of the court heard the case pertaining to the arrest and extension in remand of the veteran journalist. In the previous hearing, the court had asked NAB to submit clause-wise explanations to the questions raised by the court.
During the hearing, Barrister Aitezaz Ahsan presented arguments, maintaining that the NAB summoned MSR on March 3, along with documents.
“NAB then adjourned the proceedings until March 12,” he said, adding that his client had asked the bureau to hand him over the questions.
Upon appearance on March 12, the arrest warrants of MSR were issued from Karachi while the investigation was being carried out in Lahore, said the lawyer.
While referring to the extension in the remand, he said that the accountability court did not mention the reasons behind the decision.
The NAB prosecutor submitted the response in relation to the original petition while he was asked by the LHC to submit more responses at the next hearing on Thursday.
NAB permits MSR to meet ailing brother Mir Javed Rahman
The NAB has allowed MSR to meet his ailing brother and Roznama Jang Editor Mir Javed Rahman, after news surfaced of him being critically ill.
“MSR can go to Karachi for one day to visit his ailing brother, however, he will remain under NAB detention,” said the statement.
The NAB statement came after Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari requested the bureau to allow MSR to meet his brother on humanitarian grounds.
“Without seeking to, or even seeming to interfere in any way with the independence of NAB, as Minister for Human Rights I would request you to consider not opposing a 48-hour parole for Mir Shakil ur Rahman to allow him to see his critically ill brother, as his case for bail come up before the LHC,” she wrote.
Javed Rahman is being treated at a private hospital in Karachi. According to the hospital report, he is suffering from lung cancer.
The petition, filed by MSR’s wife Shahina Shakil, had stated that the MSR had been cooperating with officials and the arrest was a flagrant violation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the accountability watchdog.
The petition had requested that the court declare the arrest an abuse of the NAB chairman’s authority, as the arrest was made while the case was still in the process of verification.
The petition further argued that NAB had violated the 2019 businessmen policy introduced by the Government of Pakistan by arresting MSR.
It further said that the extension in remand of MSR by the accountability court hearing the case should be declared null and void, along with the decision to arrest him.
The NAB chairman, a director-general of the watchdog and judges of the accountability court, along with others, have been named in the petition pertaining to the arrest.
In the previous hearing, the court had asked NAB to present the reasons behind the arrest, clause by clause, in reference to the plea.
During the hearing, MSR’s counsel, Barrister Aitezaz Ahsan, argued before the court that NAB had violated its policy by arresting MSR. He added that NAB had itself decided not to summon businessmen for questioning.
During the proceedings, the judge enquired about the extension of MSR’s remand by an accountability court. “If the accountability court in the case has extended the remand then what is left?” the court asked the NAB prosecutor.
The court then clubbed the two petitions for hearing, asking for the remand order to be presented as well.
Earlier, the high court had allowed MSR to meet family and lawyers, granting access to medicines and newspapers as well.
Arrest and the case
NAB had on March 12 arrested MSR in connection with property allegedly bought illegally from a government entity more than 34 years ago.
According to a Jang Group spokesperson, the property was in fact bought from a private party 34 years ago and all evidence of this was given to NAB and legal requirements fulfilled, such as duty and taxes.
According to the spokesperson, the appearance before NAB was in relation to a call-up notice for the verification of the complaint, yet an arrest was made. Islamabad High Court’s recent judgment against NAB’s violation of the country’s law and a violation of NAB’s own rules has been committed.
“In the past 18 months, NAB has sent our reporters, producers, and editors — directly and indirectly — over a dozen notices, threatening a shutdown of our channels (via PEMRA) due to our reporting and our programmes on NAB,” said the spokesperson.
“In its defense, NAB has in writing said it is a constitutionally protected institution that cannot be criticised. NAB has also, through several means, tried to persuade the group to step back, to stop stories, among other measures in its favor at the expense of the full truth.”
“The Group will not stop any reporters, producers or anchors from any story that is on merit and at the same time will include NAB’s version. In this case, NAB denies all allegations above and claims they are independently pursuing all cases and have not been asked to do by the democratically elected government,” the spokesperson added.