Punjab ACE in action: FIRs registered despite LHC orders of status quo about lands

The News

ISLAMABAD: The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab has lodged two cases against a sitting member of the Punjab Assembly and a former federal lawmaker despite stating in the first information reports (FIRs) that prior to their registration, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had ordered status quo on the lands in question.
Another important feature of the two FIRs is that the deputy commissioner (DC) of Layyah acted on a reference from the senior member of the Board of Revenue (SMBR) on the basis of WhatsApp messages he received from him.
Both the accused – Saqlain Shah Bukhari and Ijaz Ahmad Achalana – belong to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Bukhari is the party’s president of Dera Ghazi Khan district while Achalana is an MPA.
The two FIRs contain almost identical facts; the only difference is in the different pieces of land in question. The Layyah DC clearly noted in his reports sent to the ACE that the LHC had issued orders of status quo in both the cases. However, the ACE still decided to register FIRs on the basis of the reports.
The DC wrote: “Special report – reference to your [SMBR] WhatsApp message” in view of “your” directions regarding the matter about the illegal allotment of land within Layyah district to Bukhari. He said the matter has been taken up and inquired. He also gave his findings.
The DC said in his findings that Bukhari got lands allotted illegally and managed to get them adjusted against other lands which are under litigation in the courts. The SMBR had cancelled this “adjustment” of lands.
According to the FIR, Bukhari had challenged the SMBR’s decision in the LHC, Multan Bench, and secured a status quo order. The DC’s report said that the accused still occupied these lands and has also purchased land on Main Road, Kot Sultan through different persons which has been sold as unregistered colony/plots. The accused also constructed a metal road on this land by utilizing government funds, it was alleged. The DC also got reports from the concerned assistant commissioners on the matter.
In a recent case, the Multan anti-corruption special judge stated categorically that the ACE cannot lodge a case or arrest an accused without an inquiry into the complaint under the law and rules. The judge profusely quoted the ACE rules which govern its functioning before reaching this decision. The judge said in his order that from the application of the Multan DC, it is abundantly clear that he wrote to the ACE for an inquiry and not for the registration of a criminal case against the accused. For that reason, he had quashed the FIR.

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