Adnan Khwaja, Brig Imtiaz go to jail from SC
By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court must have sent shivers down the spine of the NRO-tainted lot yet again on Tuesday.
Reminding the nation that the National Reconciliation Ordinance had been struck down by it, the apex court ordered the National Accountability Bureau to take into custody former spymaster Brig (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed and the recently appointed and removed OGDCL managing director, Adnan A. Khwaja, who had been in appeal against their conviction on corruption charges.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Ghulam Rabbani also summoned Law Secretary Masood Chishti and ordered him to complete by Sept 24 the task of writing a summary for a fresh executive decision by the prime minister on implementing the NRO verdict that required, among other matters, reopening of Swiss cases involving President Asif Ali Zardari.
Both Mr Khwaja and Brig Imtiaz were taken into custody by Islamabad police straightaway from the courtroom and escorted to a police vehicle parked outside the Supreme Court. They are required to furnish fresh surety bonds within three days.
There were several anxious moments inside the courtroom. Brig Imtiaz pleaded that he was a victim of circumstances, but the court ordered the NAB to arrest the two convicts when Additional Prosecutor General Raja Aamir Abbas informed the bench that their surety bonds for bail stood discharged after their acquittal under the NRO.
Raja Aamir said he had obtained details from Adiyala jail which suggested that Brig Imtiaz had undergone sentence of four years, five months and 14 days, and he still had to undergo three years, six months and 16 days even if he paid the fine.
A Rawalpindi accountability court had awarded Brig Imtiaz eight years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs7 million on July 31, 2001. He was released from jail on bail by the Lahore High Court on June 8, 2002.
Adnan Khwaja was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs200,000. He has already served one year, one month and eight days in jail, including remissions, but 10 months and 22 days still remain.
After the promulgation of NRO both the accused had claimed benefit under it. However, when the NRO was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the acquittal earned by them stood set aside.
During the pendency of an appeal filed by Adnan Khwaja in the now-defunct Islamabad High Court, his sentence was suspended by the Supreme Court in 2002, subject to furnishing of surety bonds.
After the acquittal, Mr Khwaja was appointed chairman of the National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (Navtec) on June 2, 2008. He was not allowed to draw any salary, but entitled to functional support and privileges that go with the position.
The court said it was surprising that despite its order of declaring the NRO ultra vires and an accountability court decision barring him from holding any public office for 10 years, Mr Khwaja continued to perform his functions as Navtec chairman.
“Adnan Khwaja continued to hold this position even after Dec 16, 2009, although it was his legal and moral duty to have relinquished the charge on account of verdict against him,” the court observed in its order.
It lamented that not only did he continue the job, but was also appointed managing director of OGDCL on Sept 7.
However, the competent authority rescinded the notification of his appointment when the case was taken up by the apex court.
In such circumstances, the court observed, it was an obligation of the NAB authorities to have taken both the convicts to custody, but contrary to it one of them, Adnan Khwaja, was not only allowed to continue as chairman of Navtec, but the properties restored in pursuance of the IHC order had also not been retrieved.
“Thus, as it emerges from these facts, unless fresh sureties are furnished, the benefit of judgments suspending their sentences and granting bail to them cannot be extended,” the order said. Raja Aamir said that the LHC had set the hearing of appeals by the two accused on Sept 23.
Establishment Secretary Ismail Qureshi submitted an explanation on the appointment of Mr Khwaja. The court will consider it at the next hearing. For the implementation of NRO judgment, the law secretary sought time. But the court said that sufficient time had already been given to him, but no progress had been made.
When the case will be taken up on Sept 24, the law secretary will be required to inform the court that he had written a summary for the prime minister in accordance with paragraph 178 of the NRO judgment.
The paragraph says: “Since the NRO 2007 stands declared void ab initio, actions taken or suffered under the said law are also non est (unconstitutional) in law, and since the communications addressed by Malik Muhammad Qayyum to various foreign fora/authorities/courts withdrawing the requests earlier made by the Government of Pakistan for mutual legal assistance; surrendering the status of civil party; abandoning the claims to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries, including Switzerland, have also been declared by us to be unauthorised and illegal communications and consequently of no legal effect, therefore, it is declared that the initial requests for mutual legal assistance; securing the status of civil party and the claims lodged to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries, including Switzerland, are declared never to have been withdrawn.
“Therefore, the Federal Government and other concerned authorities are ordered to take immediate steps to seek revival of the said requests, claims and status.”