Thursday Jul 12, 2018
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court directed on Thursday the interior secretary to take steps to bring back former finance minister Ishaq Dar to the country on an urgent basis.
“Is Dar present today?” Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar asked the interior secretary as he headed a three-judge bench of the apex court hearing a suo motu case related to former Pakistan Television (PTV) chairman Attaullah Haq Qasmi's appointment as managing director (MD) as well as the amount of salary and perks he received both as chairman and MD of the state-run corporation.
When informed about Dar’s failure to appear once again, despite being given a last chance to be present in person within three days during the last hearing on Monday, the chief justice ordered the interior secretary to bring back the former finance minister and also directed the relevant authorities to assist him.
“If any authority refuses to assist the interior secretary, we will conduct an inquiry against it,” Justice Nisar remarked.
Further, the chief justice asked the interior secretary to share how Dar can be brought back to the country. “What steps can be taken if someone does not appear despite being summoned by the court?” he asked.
“An accountability court has already declared Dar an absconder,” Justice Nisar upheld.
In response, the interior secretary informed the bench, “A passport can be revoked through several ways.”
“The passport is cancelled after issuing a show-cause notice,” the interior secretary explained and added that former president Pervez Musharraf’s passport and national identity card have been cancelled.
To this, the chief justice remarked, “If we cancel the passport then he [Dar] will have the excuse that he cannot travel back.”
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, however, asked, “Can Interpol be asked to bring him back?”
“There has to be a mechanism to bring back people to the country,” Justice Ahsan observed.
Further, the chief justice asserted, “There need to be laws to bring back suspects.”
He continued, “Three months ago, a NAB court declared Dar absconder but what did the government do?”
“The then-prime minister is meeting Dar [in London] — is this rule of law?” Justice Nisar asked.
“Can red warrants be issued against Dar?” he further questioned.
Additionally, former finance secretary Dr Waqar Masood, who had been summoned earlier, appeared before the court.
“I have recorded my statements,” Dr Masood told the bench while adding that he had expressed reservations at Qasmi’s Rs1.5 million monthly salary.
“The summary was sent to the Finance Ministry which forwarded it to the Prime Minister's Secretariat,” he added.
Further, the former finance secretary said, “I have nothing to do with the approved Rs270 million salary package.”
“The package is for a total Rs54 million and not Rs270 million. Various perks may have been included in it which took it up to Rs270 million,” he clarified.
However, the chief justice remarked, “The former premier's principal secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad had said the PM Secretariat had nothing to do with the matter.”
“Further investigation is needed in this case,” Justice Nisar observed.
Meanwhile, the attorney general said, “If the amount is returned then the case should not be referred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).”
“This is why we had summoned Qasmi,” the chief justice said in response.
The bench then summoned a copy of the summary which was forwarded to the PM Secretariat and Finance Ministry.
“We will have to do something to end corruption,” he remarked.
During the hearing, the chief justice remarked that they said time and again that Dar should return so the matter could have reached clarity, “but Dar’s back pain is never-ending”.
The attorney general remarked that it will regrettable if a literary figure as popular as Qasmi is sent to jail.
The court then reserved its judgment in the case and will hear the matter related to Dar's return on July 14.
Qasmi, a noted author and playwright, was appointed the chairman of PTV in 2015 but in April 2017, appointed himself the MD as well, sparking controversy.
During an earlier hearing, the court was informed by the additional attorney general and information secretary that Qasmi had reportedly received a total of Rs278 million in salaries and advertising cuts during his two-year stint at the state TV channel.
Qasmi, a recipient of the Pride of Performance Award, Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaz, has denied any wrongdoing.