LAHORE: An anti-corruption court sent former chief minister Parvez Elahi to jail for 14 days on judicial remand on Sunday in a case of making illegal recruitments in the Punjab Assembly.
Mr Elahi was re-arrested by the Anti-Corruption Establishment in Gujranwala after the judicial magistrate discharged him in two graft cases on Saturday. He was brought in an armoured vehicle and produced before the district judge in Lahore. The ACE had sought his 14-day physical remand to “recover bribery worth Rs15 million which the accused had taken as the Punjab Assembly speaker for [making] out-of-merit appointments on grade-17 posts”.
The counsel said ‘forged’ documents [result sheets of the interviews of candidates] were also to be recovered from Mr Elahi’s possession, while his mobile phone was also required for forensic analysis.
However, Judge Murtaza Virk observed that no action has been taken against the beneficiaries of the alleged bogus appointments yet, while the complainant in the case, Usman Ghani, had also not approached any other forum except the ACE against the alleged forgery despite the passage of two years. The appointments were made on Aug 9, 2021, when Mr Elahi was the speaker of the assembly.
Expressing a lack of confidence in the presiding judge at the outset of the hearing, an ACE official had requested him not to hear the case. But the judge reportedly refused, saying the agency could challenge his verdict if not satisfied with his adjudication.
Defence counsel Rana Intizar requested the court to allow Punjab Assembly special secretary Rai Mumtaz Ahmed Babar to join the case proceedings. As the judge consented to it, Rai Babar told the court that he had been picked up while he was strolling outside his residence in Lahore last night, was blindfolded and taken to the ACE director-general.
He said that the officer forced him to become an approver in the case and got recorded his testimony due to which he could not sleep the whole night.
ACE DG Sohail Zafar Chattha said they would challenge the court verdict because they have strong evidence about the involvement of Mr Elahi in 12 appointments in grade-17 through bogus result sheets.
He told the media outside the court that then-deputy speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari was also present during the interviews (and knew certain candidates who could not perform well in the interviews but were selected for appointments).
Mr Chattha claimed that those who had secured 72 marks in the written were failed in the interview to appoint the ‘already-selected’ candidates. He said that ACE would challenge both the Lahore and Gujranwala judges’ verdicts in cases against the ex-chief minister.
Talking to the media, the former chief minister said that all knew who was behind the cases against him. He said that he wished to give a message to those registering one after another case against him that he was with the armed forces and had nothing to do with those who were against the army.
He offered to “…sit down with us and tell us the way forward for taking the country forward.” As party president, he advised the PTI workers to remain firm and continue fighting against the tactics of the government.