SC sets aside suspension of Zafar Qureshi
By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: In what has been billed as a decision that may ignite fresh tensions between the executive and judiciary, the Supreme Court quashed on Monday the July 4 suspension order of Capt (retd) Zafar Ahmed Qureshi and reinstated him to the post of Additional Director General of Federal Investigation Agency.
Mr Qureshi was suspended by the government apparently to keep him out of investigation into the multi-billion-rupee National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) scam which also involves Moonis Elahi, the son of former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi whose party is a partner in the PPP-led coalition government.
The 32-paged judgment authored by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said: “Thus, order dated July 4, 2011, suspending Zafar Qureshi or any other order, is quashed/set aside. He shall be deemed to have been on duty as Additional DG FIA pursuant to the order of this court dated July 1, 2011.”
A three-judge bench, headed by the chief justice and comprising Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim, had on July 25 reserved judgment after Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq had failed to submit reactions of the interior secretary on behalf of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and of principal secretary on behalf of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani about the suspension of Zafar Qureshi by the government in disregard of the July 1 court order to reinstate him.
Monday’s ruling required Mr Qureshi to immediately resume investigation into the NICL scam and expeditiously complete it.
FIA Director General Tehseen Anwar Shah was directed not to create any hindrance in the investigation process.
The court ordered Tehseen Shah, Zafar Qureshi and other officers to ensure that the public money siphoned off abroad was brought back immediately.
The verdict also mentioned that the FIA had been informed by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) of the UK that Moonis Elahi maintained accounts in EFG Private Bank, UK, with a balance of over 1.2 million pounds and another account in Barclays Bank in the name of Beenish Khan (wife of Mohsin Habib Warraich) with a balance of 102,307 pounds (transferred from the account of EFG Bank).
Former FIA chief Waseem Ahmed who later quit the post had kept this information with him for 21 days.
“It is evident from the record that the suspension order of Zafar Qureshi was issued by a person who was not competent as verbal orders were obtained from the competent authority, later confirmed by the principal secretary to the prime minister,” the judgment said.
The court stopped the authorities from taking any action against Zafar Qureshi without its approval. “The investigation team earlier assisting Mr Qureshi will join him as team mates, unless he wants otherwise.”
The court observed that by rendering ineffective its July 1 order which had suspended the transfer notification of Zafar Qureshi as Director General of the National Police Foundation, interference had been made prima facie in judicial functioning and as a result not only the authority of the court was eroded, but the investigation into the NICL cases was also badly hampered.
“Thus the investigation came to a standstill and no progress was made, creating doubts that the plundered money siphoned off outside the country would never come unless a serious investigation was conducted with the government support to prosecution,” the verdict said.
Mr Qureshi is also required to submit fortnightly reports on progress in the investigation duly countersigned by the FIA DG to Justice Amir Hani Muslim for perusal in chambers.
The court observed that prima facie Mr Qureshi’s suspension was the result of political intervention in the affairs of this court and required to be determined in view of facts and circumstances that also included pressurising the officer by the high-ups to dissociate him from the proceedings of the cases on political expediency, as widely reported by the print media, coupled with propaganda on the electronic media against the judiciary through advertisements.
“The private TV channels might have declined to indulge in such campaign, but the TV channels being operated commercially prima facie cannot be blamed,” the order said, adding that people or a specific group which provided finances for this purpose were required to be dealt with in accordance with the law. The court appointed Justice Ghulam Rabbani of the Supreme Court to conduct an inquiry and submit report after determining whether before his suspension Mr Qureshi had been pressurised by Interior Minister Rehman Malik because of political expediency as was reported in newspapers. Justice Rabbani is required to fix individual or collective responsibility against people who made investment for the campaign against the judiciary on the electronic media.
The court expressed the hope that the inquiry would be completed expeditiously in the interest of justice. Additional Registrar Sajid Mehmood Qazi was deputed to facilitate Justice Rabbani. Federal secretaries of interior, establishment and information will provide the required assistance for completing the report.