ISLAMABAD: The government in an apparent bid avoid contempt of court has withdrawn its decision to punish Wajid Zia— the head of Panama case’s Joint Investigation Team (JIT)— over the question of privilege raised by Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar, it was learnt reliably.
A copy of revised agenda of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges scheduled to be held on February 2 disclosed the absence of a question of privilege regarding Zia from the agenda.
The agenda pertaining to Wajid Zia was earlier included as a number 1 priority in a notice of the said standing committee’s meeting, released by the NA Secretariat. However, now NA Standing Committee will take up 15 points as agenda in the meeting.
Sources privy to the development said that the government has retreated from the earlier decision to punish Wajid Zia. They said that “the government has withdrawn the decision only to save its skin from the contempt of the Supreme Court”.
Earlier, Safdar had submitted an application with National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, raising a question of privilege. The NA speaker, while advising further necessary action, had forwarded the matter to the NA Secretariat to take action against Wajid Zia.
MNA Safdar, in his application to Ayaz Sadiq, had raised the issue that the JIT head had levelled baseless allegations against him.
The four-point agenda of this meeting had disclosed that the question of privilege raised by former PM’s son-in-law was to be the topmost agenda of the meeting, scheduled to be held on February 2, 2018.
It is relevant to mention here that the Supreme Court, while ordering complete security for the members of the JIT until further orders had declared that “any action against the JIT members will be made subject to the court’s approval”. The court had also ordered that the JIT members be provided with the job security as well.
Reportedly, the JIT investigating Panama Papers case, in its report submitted to the Supreme Court, had said that Safdar was absolutely evasive, non-committal, and speculative while recording his statement.
Well-informed sources had earlier said that the Sharif family was annoyed with Wajid Zia for collecting documentary evidence from London, with the help of a private firm, and also for being a witness in corruption reference against the Sharifs. Because of this reason, they said, PML-N government is all out to punish Zia and has earlier started the proceeding with a question of privileges.
Moreover, Zia’s promotion to grade 22 from a high-level board meeting held in October and December 2017 had already allegedly been stopped by the incumbent government.
It is pertinent to mention here that 14 out of 20 members of NA Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure & Privileges, including chairman of the committee, belong to the ruling PML-N.
The NA committee is authorised to recommend suspension and strict punishment if it finds a violation of privileges, they added.
Later, after getting an order from the committee to take action against Zia, “NA speaker, as well as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, will play their role to award him a punishment and suspension from the job at the FIA,” they added.