Accountability process: Punjab ACE goes into overdrive against politicians, others

The News

ISLAMABAD: In a new development, the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) of Punjab has sprung into action to carry out the accountability of the allegedly corrupt. But the courts have refused to allow the detention of the arrested for long periods.
Under the law governing the ACE, the subordinate courts have the powers to grant bail or even quash the cases if they find them to be unfounded. To prevent corruption, the ACE can act against a public servant or anyone abetting him under Prevention of Corruption act and Pakistan Penal Code.
The ACE statute is unlike the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law, which allows the prolonged confinement of the accused, ruling out bail by subordinate courts. The superior judiciary, however, has been granting bail to those arrested by NAB on various grounds. The intervention of high courts is sought through writ petitions.
ACE Director General Gohar Nafees, who is spearheading the aggressive new drive, told a meeting that for many years certain influential people, including sitting and former lawmakers, have been occupying state land worth billions of rupees. “We are determined to recover this state property,” he said.
In just a week or so, the ACE has lodged half a dozen cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders and more are in the pipeline. In some cases, the nominated accused persons have not been arrested while in others where they were detained, the anti-corruption courts granted bail.
All these cases were registered by the ACE on the complaints of the relevant deputy commissioners. A court in Multan on Nov 17 ordered the release of former Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Abdul Ghaffar Dogar, detained on the charge of land-grabbing and forgery, and quashed the FIR against him. He had been taken into custody just two days earlier. His counsel argued that the case was lodged on political grounds and said the deputy commissioner of Multan, in violation of rules, directed the ACE to conduct a probe into the matter.
The ACE has also registered a case against former federal minister Ghulam Dastgir Khan, father of PML-N MNA Khurram Dastgir, for setting up the Dastgir & Bros petrol pump and CNG station allegedly on state land. However, the FIR, a copy of which is available with The News, says it has been observed that the original file regarding the issuance of a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the petrol pump/CNG station is not available in the [deputy commissioner of Gujranwala’s] office except the documents of the NOC pertaining to the additional plan of a service station, which lies in its general branch. The ACE has not made any arrest in this case.
A Rawalpindi court on Saturday accepted the bail plea of former member of the Punjab Assembly (MPA) of the PML-N Sarfraz Afzal on medical grounds. He was arrested by the ACE in an illegal housing society scam four days ago. The ACE was unable to convince the court for the grant of his physical remand or decline bail to him. It was alleged that the accused inflicted a loss of millions of rupees to the national exchequer in tax embezzlement.
A week back, the ACE booked senior PML-N leader Khwaja Asif’s wife, a former Sialkot mayor and ex-MPA of the PML-N, in a housing scam. The ACE accused them of causing a loss of millions of rupees to the exchequer in the form of evasion of the site map and conversion fees of the Kent Housing Society. No arrest has so far been made.
Besides, Khawaja Asif has also been repeatedly summoned by the NAB and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on various counts. The Lahore chapter of the NAB is already probing him for allegedly establishing the Kent Housing Society illegally. It has sought records from him regarding sources and local amount of funds invested in the project by him, his family members and other partners/close relatives.
During this drive, the ACE, on the report of the Kasur deputy commissioner, has caught another former PML-N MPA Ahsan Raza Khan on the charges of constructing an illegal commercial market and a housing scheme. He is accused of building a market on the land of government hospital Kanganpur and constructing a housing society with the alleged connivance of Chunian’s Municipal Corporation officials.
The ACE has announced that it has approved investigations against 37 Punjab politicians, including Rana Sanaullah, Rana Mashhood, Rana Mubashir, Abid Sher Ali, Malik Afzal Hinjra, Malik Ajmal Hinjra, Mian Riaz, Ibadullah Khan, Rana Azeem, Ashraf Abbas Dogar, Riaz Goraya, Mian Zulfiqar, Sheikh Rohail Asghar, Sohail Shaukat Butt, Ghazali Saleem Butt and others.

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