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SC wants Rs 1.38 bn property retrieved

LAHORE: A three-member Supreme Court bench on Thursday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to retrieve precious property worth Rs 1.38 billion of Qasr-e-Zauk, conduct a thorough investigation and arrest all culprits involved in the scam, without fear of being influenced.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khwaja and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, also directed NAB Punjab Director General Rana Zahid to probe defective investigation, earlier conducted by Deputy Director Ziaullah Khan, apparently under the influence of some big guns, at the cost of one Sheikh Ayub and his son Mohsin Ayub, who were allegedly implicated by them in a false case of monetary fraud.

The court was informed that former Attorney General Malik Muhammad Qayyum, former Inspector General of Punjab Azhar Hasan Nadeem, uncle of former LHC judge Sheikh Rasheed, Senator Gulzar Ahmed Khan, his sons Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan and Senator Ammar Ahmed Khan, former Minister Iqbal Tikka and his relative DSP Mukhtar Tikka were involved in the land scam and got transferred the property in their names after kidnapping the owners – Sheikh Ayub and his son Mohsin Ayub.

Justice Jawwad also noted that over the last two-and-a-half years, the said property has been running as a marriage hall, earning crores of rupees thus far. He asked the NAB authorities whether the money was accounted for by any means when the property was frozen and declared non-transferable. He said the deputy director appears to have acted under influence. The money should have been deposited with NAB. But NAB declared the senator innocent and held others responsible. How can NAB say without complete probe that some are culprits and others are angels? Justice Ramday asked.

The court is hearing the bail petition of Mohsin Ayub, who has been in NAB custody over the last four years. The DG said he needed permission from the NAB chairman to take action against the high-profile accused, and the CJ said, “Come to us if the chairman shows reluctance in granting permission.”

The fact was brought into the court knowledge that despite a freeze order by an accountability court and a stay granted by the Lahore High Court, the prized property, Qasr-e-Zauq, at Liberty Market Lahore was sold out and transferred to Asian Gas of Senator Ammar by NAB.

Appearing before the court, Sheikh Ayub submitted that a plea bargain of Rs 600 million took place between him and the investors in presence of Malik Qayyum, the senators and the former IG, who were also investors at that time in the property.

He said Malik Qayyum invested Rs 30 million which he returned to him, but with mala fide intentions they managed to make a NAB reference against him. He said a retired brigadier, an ally of these big guns, had taken possession of his house at Nicholson Road, Lahore.

He said the property was valued at Rs 1.2 billion, but Malik Qayyum and others sold it for only Rs 600 million. Ayub told the court that he never agitated the issue at any forum and tried to resolve the matter amicably, sensing threat to the lives of his three daughters, as his only son had already by arrested by the authorities.

While narrating his story, he started weeping and crying in the court. At this, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry remarked that courts give verdicts on merit without being influenced by emotions. The bench also directed the NAB DG to record statement of Sheikh Ayub and proceed against all the accused, purely in accordance with the law.

The court, however, did not pass any order on the bail application of Mohsin Ayub and adjourned the hearing. The matter would be heard in Islamabad as today (Friday) is the last day of the SC bench in Lahore.

Counsel for Mohsin Ayub argued that his client entertained investments of the people, but was allegedly trapped by the influential who abducted him to first took him to the residence of Iqbal Tikka in Johar Town and then to Faisalabad. They took into possession the power of attorney in respect of the investors and got signed some papers in their favour during this course, he alleged.

Advocate Amjad Pervaiz told the court that property in question was purchased by the petitioner from one Ashfaq Sheikh and his family and invited investors, including the said ones, who later managed to rob him of the property, setting the claimants after him to ultimately take the matter to NAB, which now, through unfair probe, was covering the actual offenders.

It was on record that the NAB court had ordered freezing of the property and a stay about its transfer was also passed by the LHC but NAB, despite all that, sold and transferred the same to Asian Gas of Senator Ammar.

Source: The News

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