Nawaz gets to choose probe body in Pakpattan land case | Pakistan Today

Nawaz gets to choose probe body in Pakpattan land case

–Top judge gives former PM week’s time to propose which institution should investigate him after he expresses reservations over JITs

–CJP says ‘reputation of two-time CM and three-time PM must be cleared’ as Nawaz says he doesn’t remember 32-year-old incident 

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday offered former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to propose which institution should investigate the charges against him for the 1986 illegal allotment of Waqf property attached to a Pakpattan shrine after the latter expressed his reservations over being probed by a joint investigation team (JIT).

Nawaz is accused of ordering the withdrawal of a notification of Dec 17, 1969, and allegedly allotting huge lands of Auqaf around Pakpattan to Dewan Ghulam Qutab in violation of a high court order when he was the chief minister of Punjab in 1986.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Nisar had earlier directed the former prime minister to appear before the court to explain his position in the case.

As the hearing began, the chief justice asked about Nawaz, who then proceeded to the rostrum.

“What is your opinion of your written stance on the matter?” the judge asked him, to which the former PM replied: “This is a 32-year-old incident. I don’t remember any such order being passed.”

Justice Nisar then asked Nawaz if he would like to be briefed on the background of the case, and went on to explain that the claimants of the Auqaf property had petitioned the court.

“The high court also said the land belongs to the Auqaf department. But you allotted the land to a private owner in violation of the high court’s decision,” the top judge added. “If you did not hand over the Auqaf land to a private owner, you will be absolved of all charges.”

Justice Ijazul Ahsan pointed out that Nawaz Sharif’s secretary Jawed Bokhari had issued a summary regarding the land.

“The same thing happened in the Attaul Haq Qasmi case,” he recalled, referring to the illegal appointment of Qasmi as managing director Pakistan Television, in which the former premier’s secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad was found guilty of processing the summary for the appointment.

“Fawad Hassan Fawad had said that approval was granted by the prime minister,” the chief justice observed. “Did your secretary denotify the land?” he asked Nawaz.

“I am also astonished by what you are astonished by,” Nawaz responded.

“To do justice is not just the job of the court,” Justice Nisar told the former PM. “People in your position should also provide justice.”

“If the chief minister at the time did not suspend the notification, then who did? Who was the beneficiary?” he asked. “If you did not have the authority, then how were the 1969 and 1971 notifications cancelled?”

“The Auqaf director general does not have the authority to allot land to a private owner,” Justice Nisar said. “Your secretary gave approval. You were a very energetic chief minister,” he remarked.

“The private owner will only have true ownership of the property if it actually belonged to the Dewans,” the chief justice said, referring to the shrine’s caretakers.

The court also reprimanded Barrister Zafarullah, who also appeared in court, saying that he is “not a practising lawyer, but a politician”.

The private land owner’s lawyer, Iftikhar Gilani, observed that the Auqaf department does not get ownership of land if it is denotified.

“Let’s form a joint investigation team (JIT),” the chief justice suggested. “Mian sahab is wary of joint investigation teams,” he added.

“My experience with JITs has not been good,” Nawaz Sharif responded. “Make something other than a JIT.”

“We do have to probe the matter,” the chief justice reminded the ousted premier. “The reputation of the former two-time chief minister and three-time prime minister must be cleared.”

“Let’s make you the judge then,” Justice Nisar commented. “You can look into it and tell us within a week which institution should be called upon to investigate the matter.”

The chief justice also commented on the size of the entourage that accompanied the PML-N supremo to court and said that the ousted prime minister does not need to be present in court in the next hearing.

“His lawyer can present his arguments,” the chief justice said, adjourning the case for one week.

The SC took up a review petition against the land dispute which had been decided by the apex court back in 2015.

Justice Nisar, during his visit to the Baba Farid shrine earlier this year, had promised justice in the case when dozens of the affected people raised slogans to get his attention towards their plight.

The demo at Darbar Chowk in Pakpattan was organised by the Citizen’s Rights and Welfare Organization which claims working for 20,000 households in public interest and seeks ownership rights of the land they purchased from the Dewans, the caretakers of the shrine, during the last 70 years.

The Dewans claim that they had been declared caretakers of 14,500 kanal land of the the Baba Farid shrine but the Auqaf department says the shrine caretakers had no right to sell the land as it was not their jurisdiction to sell ownership rights of the land associated with the shrine since centuries.

The Dewans filed a review petition with the Supreme Court against the Auqaf Department for defense of their right to sell the land.

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