What makes Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s arrest a perfect case for a suo moto notice

ISLAMABAD: NAB is known for abuse of power and this is what the superior judiciary has repeatedly said in its past orders and observations but what the Bureau has done in the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman is worst.

A former Chairman NAB told this correspondent on condition of anonymity that as per the Bureau’s standard operating procedures (SOPs), the person accused of doing a wrong is not even summoned at the complaint verification stage. But in the case of Jang Group’s Editor in Chief, he was not only called up but was also arrested. At the complaint verification stage, it is said, generally the complainant is approached to ascertain the facts as mentioned in the complaint. And if the complaint verification is satisfactorily done the respective regional executive board of the NAB consider it for converting into an inquiry. At the inquiry stage, the NAB contacts the person against whom the inquiry is ordered.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman falls in the category of private businessman. NAB strangely not only entertained the complaint of a shady character but it hastily arrested the Jang-Geo Group Editor-in-Chief despite the fact that the deal in question was between two private individuals. The recent amendment in the NAB law bars the Bureau to intervene in such a matter but the accountability watchdog still called up and later arrested the editor-in-chief. Even before the introduction of these amendments, NAB had a set of guidelines to follow in matters relating to businessman. But those guidelines were also disregarded completely in the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman by the NAB Lahore office.

In case all these legal and procedural violations are ignored, even then as per normal practice NAB sends or hands over written questionnaire to the person being probed. The accused are generally asked to give answer to the NAB questionnaire within a certain period of time. In the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, no questionnaire was provided to him despite even his insistence on March 4 when he had appeared for the first time. When Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman appeared before NAB last week, he wanted to submit a two-page explanatory statement in his defence but the NAB officials refused to receive it despite repeated requests. Then Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman requested the Bureau officials to provide him with a written questionnaire. The NAB official refused to give him any written questions. In the end, he had asked the NAB to at least dictate the questions so that he could prepare his replies when he returns again on March 12 after examining the 34-year-old record.

On March 12 Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had gone to NAB’s regional office alongwith detailed answers, backed by documentary evidence, to the questions which he himself had noted down on a piece of paper on March 4. After receipt of reply from accused, according to the NAB procedure, if the same is found unsatisfactory or needs further explanation another questionnaire is delivered to the accused businessman. In the case of Jang-Geo Group chief, it was also not done as he was neither given the opportunity to review new set questionnaire nor had the chance to submit his written reply.

The NAB procedure says that if the reply of the second set of questionnaire is not found to be satisfactory then the matter will be examined by the DG Regional NAB, who will review the replies and if found unsatisfactory, the businessman will be summoned for personal appearance as per law and SOP. In the case of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, he was issued the call-up notice and arrested during his second appearance bypassing all initial stages. It means Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was arrested bypassing all the pre-requisites. The Jang Group’s editor-in-chief was never provided with either first set of questionnaire or the second set of questionnaire, the Regional DG’s role of reviewing his replies was also skipped and above all the NAB chairman issued his warrants for arrest without ascertaining if the NAB Lahore had fulfilled all the legal and procedural pre-requisites.

There is no answer available as yet to the question as to why the NAB chairman was in such a hurry to arrest Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a 34 year old case relating to a commercial transaction between two individuals. Like several other past cases, the Jang Group is sure that it will prove Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s innocence as well as NAB’s malafide intention in the court of law but the ruthless abuse of power by NAB in this instance makes it a perfect case for a suo motu notice by the apex court. Such is the brazen display of power that on the very next day of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s highly contentious arrest, cable operators across Pakistan were told either to take Geo off air or throw it at the back end of the spectrum. Prior of these actions, the government had already stopped Jang Group’s advertisements. It’s a clear case of strangulating free media in Pakistan.