LAHORE: An accountability court on Wednesday extended the physical remand of Editor-in-Chief of the Jang and Geo Media Group, Mir Shakilur Rahman till April 7, in a case pertaining to the purchase of a piece of land more than three decades ago.
In the hearing held into the case, Judge Jawadul Hasan heard the arguments made by the NAB prosecutor, who asked for further physical remand of the accused.
On March 12, Rahman had been arrested over a 34-year-old property transaction by NAB. On March 13, the court had given his custody to NAB for a 12-day physical remand.
“The land that was transferred to MSR 34 years ago was transferred illegally by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA),” the prosecutor told the court on Wednesday. “LDA transferred the land to Rahman on the directives of former Punjab chief minister Nawaz Sharif,” the prosecutor alleged.
“The proper rules and procedures for the transfer of the land over to Rahman were not followed. LDA made the mistake of transferring the land in bulk,” the prosecutor further argued, adding that the land was allotted to him at three different places.
“Rahman illegally got the land allotment transferred to a single place,” the prosecutor said.
However, the judge reprimanded the NAB official at this point, telling him not to indulge in political arguments. The court also questioned NAB why it needed further physical remand of Rahman.
“We have summoned the former DG LDA as well. The former DG LDA has assured us of his cooperation, and he will get back to us with a detailed answer after he has reviewed the documents pertaining to the allotment and transfer of land to Rahman,” the prosecutor said.
The court also asked NAB to explain how the land in question could have been transferred over to Rahman by the LDA before the authority had taken possession of it. “LDA can only transfer over the rights to a land after it has taken possession of it,” the court reminded the prosecutor.
Rahman’s lawyer Amjad Pervaiz argued before the court that his client had obliged NAB at every juncture in the case and should be freed. He said that NAB had all the documents and files related to the case with them, and there was no reason to detain him any longer.
“NAB says it wants to arrange a meting between a former officer of the LDA and my client. Why does NAB need to arrest Rahman to hold this meeting?” the counsel argued.
“It is in their own rules that before even asking for a businessmen to come to their office, they need to have passed the complaint verification stage, and be in the inquiry or investigation stage. Yet they summoned Rahman before these rules had been followed.”
The lawyer further added that NAB chairman had signed the arrest warrants of Rahman even before the latter arrived with written answers to NAB questions. “”How could the Chairman NAB have seen the answers before Rahman presented them to the body?” he asked.
Pervaiz said that it seemed the NAB chief had made up his mind to arrest Rahman. “For the chairman to sign arrest warrants, he needs to see the documents of the case, and the DG NAB needs to provide an assessment in the case too,” Pervaiz outlined.
“The arrest warrant then travels from Islamabad to Lahore physically. The chain of events witnessed in lead-up to the arrest of MSR indicate that the NAB chief had made up his mind to arrest MSR before giving the DG due time to assess the case,” he noted.
After hearing the arguments of both parties in the case, the judge went into his chamber for an hour, and emerged without a written ruling, instead declaring verbally that he had decided to extend the physical remand of Rahman till April 7.
Meanwhile, Rahman has filed a bail petition in the LHC, stating the NAB had arrested him illegally and that he was suffering from several illnesses.
The anti-graft watchdog had violated its SOP’s prior to the arrest, the petition said.
They could not find anything on me during investigation, the petition added.