Monday, January 31, 2022

Property transaction case: Lahore court acquits Jang Group editor-in-chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman

NAB arrested Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in March 2020 on trumped-up charges relating to property purchased over 30 years ago

Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. — AFP/File
Jang-Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman. — AFP/File

  • An accountability court declares all suspects involved innocent.
  • The court issues order to release all seized properties of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
  • He was arrested by NAB in March 2020 on charges relating to property purchased more than three decades ago.

LAHORE: An accountability court in Lahore on Monday acquitted Jang and Geo Media Group editor-in-chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in a case relating to a property transaction that took place over 30 years ago.

According to the decision taken by the accountability court, no charges were proved against the suspects and hence, it declared all suspects in the case innocent.

The court further issued an order to release all seized properties of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Accountability court Judge Asad Ali, in the 20-page verdict, stated that it would have been a “futile” exercise to continue the trial of the reference without any evidence.

“No evidence could be produced on record to show that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had facilitated in the crime. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and co-accused Humayon Faiz and Mian Bashir are acquitted of the charge,” the judgment said.

The prosecution failed to prove the crime, added the judgment. Sending a summary to DG LDA cannot be considered as evidence of cheating against Humayon Faiz and Bashir Ahmed, it said.

The verdict also stated that co-accused Humayon Faiz, Bashir Ahmed have not been accused of making any financial gains. It clarified that sending a summary to DG LDA does not make it corruption or corrupt practice.

The judge also noted that the complainant of the case is not a resident of the area. No rights of the complainant have been violated therefore they cannot be termed as an affected party, said the verdict.

“Testimony of nine prosecution witnesses has been recorded while the master plan has also been viewed. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has paid for the extra land allotted,” said the judgment. The judge also noted that a no-recovery certificate is issued after all dues have been issued.

“Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman's application for the [no-recovery certificate] was not rejected even once. NAB’s case is based on assumptions only,” said the decision. It added that there was no evidence of criminal intent against the co-accused.

During the previous hearing, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s counsel, Amjad Perviz, had submitted an application with the court under Section 265-k seeking his client’s acquittal.

He pleaded with the court to acquit his client as there was nothing in the evidence presented against him.

In November 2020, the Supreme Court had granted bail to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, who stayed in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for eight months.

Case timeline

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman had bought 54 canals of private property in the Johar Town area of ​​Lahore in 1986. Based on this purchase, NAB had summoned him on March 5, 2020.

The editor-in-chief had presented all documents of the land and also recorded his statement. However, NAB had summoned him again on March 12 and arrested him.

According to constitutional and legal experts, his arrest during the scrutiny of land documents was unwarranted as NAB law does not allow for the arrest of any businessman during an inquiry.

The land was allotted according to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) rules and regulations, with the formal approval of the competent authorities, and in accordance with the LDA Exemption policy at that time.

All payments were made according to the government-approved rates, just like all other allottees. In the entire process, no law was violated, and no loss was caused to the national exchequer.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was nominated in the reference as the then Punjab chief minister. Former DG LDA Humayun Faiz and Mian Bashir Ahmad had also been nominated in the case by the anti-graft body.

Two petitions were filed in the Lahore High Court, one for his bail and the other for his acquittal. Dismissing the pleas, the court had ordered to approach it once again at the right time.

On July 8, a division bench of the Lahore High Court had dismissed Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman's bail application after his arrest. Later, the editor-in-chief filed another petition in the Supreme Court on September 11 in which it was argued that the decision of the Lahore High Court should be quashed and he should be granted bail.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, heard the bail plea of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

On November 9, 2020, the Supreme Court granted bail to Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.