ISLAMABAD: Hamesh Khan, former president of the Bank of Punjab and the principal accused in a Rs9 billion loan scam, was produced on Wednesday in the Supreme Court which expressed displeasure over the official failure to do something about the lawyers who allegedly received millions of rupees to buy freedom for Sheikh Afzal, the owner of Haris Steel Mills and the main character in the scam.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday had taken up a BoP petition against the Haris Steel Industry.
Hamesh Khan, who was escorted by senior officials of the National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency, informed the court that he had no complaints and that investigators were providing all possible facilities and allowing him to meet his wife Muneera.
The chief justice assured Advocate Sheikh Mahmood, the counsel for Hamesh Khan, that his client would get fair treatment and complete justice and said that his return to the country demonstrated his respect for the legal system.
But the CJ was displeased seeing a large number of FIA officials guarding the accused. “You think Hamesh will flee from the courtroom,” he asked.
“You have failed to get hold of those who plundered the national wealth, but running after those who reposed confidence in the country’s legal system,” the CJ observed. He ordered the authorities to take Hamesh to Lahore and keep him in Chamba House because he could face security problems in Islamabad.
Referring to the slow pace of inquiry against the lawyers who had taken large amounts of money from Sheikh Afzal, the court asked NAB’s Additional Prosecutor General Raja Aamir Abbas to take up the matter with the bureau chairman. The outcome of the meeting and action decided to be taken against the officials responsible should be shared with the court on Thursday, it said.
“We are giving you (FIA officials) warning and will take you people to task,” the CJ said.
He said that millions of rupees had been taken out of the country, but officials were not interested in bringing the money back. “We want return of all that national wealth,” the CJ said.
Sheikh Afzal had earlier informed the court that he had bought a whole lot of ‘worthy’ people to get out of the country, although his name was on the exit control list.
Sheikh Afzal, who was arrested in Malaysia by Interpol and brought to Pakistan, confessed to have allegedly paid Rs50 million to Law Minister Babar Awan, Rs10 million to former adviser Shairfuddin Pirzada, Rs20 million to former attorney general Malik Mohammad Qayyum and Rs7.5 million to Ali Waseem, son of Waseem Sajjad, to get a court verdict in his favour.
Advocate Khawja Haris, the counsel for the bank, said that despite a detailed report on the scam the NAB had failed to proceed against the lawyers.
He alleged that Irfan Qadir, who had been accused by Sheikh Afzal of taking millions of rupees, was recently appointed NAB’s prosecutor general.
The chief justice expressed concern and asked why had the officer not been arrested. “It means all of you have joined hands to protect such people,” the CJ said addressing FIA’s Director Investigation (finance) Sahibzada Raafat Rauf Ali.
When the court was informed that NAB’s Punjab prosecutor general Ejaz Mohammad had sent a reference against some lawyers to the Punjab Bar Council, the court questioned the jurisdiction of the council to adjudicate on such issues.
Khawja Haris insisted that the NAB and FIA had enough evidence against Ali Sajjad and Malik Qayyum but no action had been taken.
Syed Irfan Raza adds:
Talking to reporters after the hearing, Hamesh’s counsel claimed that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had forced his client to pay Rs500 million from the bank and become an approver against the Chaudhrys of Gujrat.
Advocate Mahmood said that Mr Hamesh in his first statement recorded by the US State Department had accused Mr Sharif of forcing him to pay Rs500 million for setting up a sugar mill. In return, the chief minister had asked him to become an approver against Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, he added.
The lawyer said that Mr Hamesh had told Mr Sharif that he could not give even a single penny because he (the chief minister) was already a defaulter of the bank.
When contacted, PML-N spokesman Siddiqul Farooq termed the statement “false and fabricated”. He said that by giving such a statement the accused was trying to clear himself of the allegation that he had misused the bank money to oblige some politicians.
“If there is any concrete evidence he (Hamesh) should bring it to the NAB and the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the authenticity of his statement will be considered as zero,” the spokesman said.