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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) noted that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) failed to show sufficient incriminating material against Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal in Narowal Sports City Complex corruption scam.

A division bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah, on Wednesday, issued a detailed verdict on Narowal Sports City Complex, wherein, Iqbal was granted bail in the said case in February this year.

The judgment said, “There must be sufficient incriminating material to justify arresting an accused.”

The PML-N leader was arrested on December 23, 2019 for allegedly using funds from the federal government and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for the multi-billion-rupee project in his hometown. Justice Minallah noted that it is an admitted position that the proposal for the project was initiated for the use and benefit of the general public of district Narowal and the approvals were granted by various competent forums such as the CDWP.

“There is nothing on record to show nor has it been alleged by the Bureau that the petitioner had gained any financial benefit,” said the IHC chief justice.

He added that the additional prosecutor general of the NAB, despite his able assistance, could not show to us sufficient incriminating material relating to corruption and corrupt practices.

Justice Minallah mentioned that it is a settled law that power to arrest an accused under the Ordinance of 1999 cannot be exercised mechanically and deprivation of liberty or intrusions into fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution are required to be adequately and demonstrably justified.

He further said, “The power to arrest is to be exercised fairly, justly, equitably and without discrimination. There must be sufficient incriminating material to justify arresting an accused. The “incriminating material” must be of the nature which prima facie indicates involvement of the accused in the commission of the offences under the Ordinance of 1999.”

He continued, “The material brought on record should, prima facie, show existence of criminal intent or motive, element of conscious knowledge and participation with the object of obtaining illegal gain or benefit. In the absence of these crucial elements, arrest of an accused would amount to an abuse of the power to arrest vested under the Ordinance of 1999.”

Justice Minallah also said that mere allegations of misuse of authority would not justify depriving an accused of liberty because an irregularity or wrong decision sans criminal intent does not attract the offences under the Ordinance of 1999.

He ruled that the power of arrest under the Ordinance of 1999 cannot be exercised in an indiscriminate, reckless or wanton manner because there are conflicting fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, which cannot be ignored. The IHC bench maintained that it appears from the record that the petitioner was voluntarily cooperating with the investigating officer and the case was at the stage of “inquiry” and had not been converted to the next stage i.e. investigation.

“The petitioner at the present stage of the proceedings is presumed to be innocent,” added the IHC bench.

Ahsan Iqbal in his petition had maintained that the allegations against him are “false, frivolous and absurd” and he has been arrested due to “political victimization being the secretary-general” of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

He maintained that the funds spent on the NSC were approved by the then federal cabinet, Parliament and the National Economic Council.

He said the project’s plan was revised and expanded.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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