LAHORE: In a startling development, the Lahore High Court has quashed the FIA inquiry against Jahangir Tareen’s JDW Sugar Mills and Shehbaz Sharif family’s Al Arabia Sugar Mills in a huge blow to the Federal Investigative Agency.
The honourable court also cancelled the notices sent by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to the sugar mills ruling that the SECP did not operate in accordance with the law.
The petition against the FIA and the federal government was launched by the family of Pakistan’s leader of the opposition, Mian Shehbaz Sharif.
Sources privy to the matters claimed that this verdict confirmed the politicisation of the FIA and alleged that the agency which falls under the Interior Ministry was used to target opposition leaders in a wild political goose chase.
Barrister Shehzad Akbar, who currently heads the Asset Recovery Unit had claimed serious wrongdoing and ‘corporate fraud’ on the part of the sugar mills was left in a deeply embarrassing situation after the Lahore High Court questioned the FIA’s authority to investigate these matters.
The honourable bench was headed by Justice Shahid Karim and Justice Sajid Sethi who accepted the sugar mills’ appeal temporarily as the reserved verdict was announced.
The court held that the FIA had transgressed beyond its constitutional mandate in these cases, confirming claims by opposition leaders of a political witch hunt.
Opposition leaders have claimed in recent months that the PTI government is using Pakistan’s institutions like the FIA and the SECP to unduly pressurise opposition leaders, resulting in the politicisation of institutions.
In a surprising development, the honourable court quashed DG FIA’s letter in which he formed the Combined Investigation Team (CIT), leaving the team’s authority to investigate null and void.
Government ministers led by Barrister Shehzad Akbar had made severe allegations of wrongdoing against Tareen and the Sharif family in the media but did not provide sufficient evidence to back these claims.
Salman Akram Raja and Salman Aslam Butt, the lawyers for Tareen and the Sharif family argued that the FIA did not have the authority to conduct this particular inquiry.
According to the lawyers representing the sugar mill owners, the commission’s allegations of ‘corporate fraud’ against their clients were without merit and the cabinet’s decision to take action in this regard was outside the ambit of the law.
The Lahore High Court temporarily accepted the cancellation of the notices issued by the federal government calling for an inquiry into Faruqi Pulp Mills owned by Jahangir Tareen and Al Arabia Sugar Mills owned by Shehbaz Sharif’s family.
The honourable court held that it would elucidate the FIA’s powers in this regard in the detailed verdict.