The Task For Dr. Suddle
by TARIQ BUTT
The August 30 ruling of the two-judge bench of the Supreme court shifting the investigation into Malik Riaz Hussain-Dr Arsalan Iftikhar controversy to the one-man commission comprising Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Dr Shoaib Suddle from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), contains highly adverse remarks about Attorney General Irfan Qadir, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Islamabad Faisal Bashir Memon and Deputy SP Tahir Malik, which will create immense problems for them in the days to come. They may lose their jobs as a result of the legal proceedings which have been initiated against them.
The panel comprising Justice Jawaad S Khawaja and Khilji Arif Hussain ordered that the Supreme Court "office shall, therefore, create a file and issue notice to the attorney general". Thus, a formal process will be launched against him to carry out investigation into his conduct in this case. One of the charges against him is that he hid the fact from the bench that he once worked as a lawyer of Malik Riaz Hussain. "There is a reasonable and well founded prima facie basis for the allegation of Arsalan's lawyer Sardar Ishaq that Irfan Qadir did not act fairly and impartially while purporting to act in furtherance of the court order of June 14," the judgment said. "Since these are matters of serious concern to us and also would be to the attorney general as a member of our bar, it would be in the interest of fairness and justice if he is provided an opportunity of hearing to explain his conduct."
At the same time, the order noted that there is indeed no impropriety if an advocate represents a client in any given case. However, the objection is not to the fact that the attorney general, in his private professional capacity, represented Malik Riaz. The allegation being made is that neither during the course of hearing of the present case nor when the bench announced its judgment on June 14 or at any time later, he disclosed to the court his association or professional relationship with the real estate tycoon. The bench would not have tasked Irfan Qadir with any responsibility in this matter had he made the disclosure as to his professional association with Malik Riaz. It is of concern to the bench that he did not did not make the requisite disclosure.
Ishaq filed a review against the June 14 verdict in which the bench had said that it was its expectation that the attorney general will set the machinery of the State in motion so that all those who may have committed any illegal acts, including Malik Riaz, Arsalan, Salman Ali Khan etc. are pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigour of the law. In pursuance of this, Irfan Qadir referred the investigation of the saga to the NAB. But while deciding the review petition, the panel concluded that any inquiry by NAB in the matter will not be free from perception of partiality or bias or lack of competence. In order to meet the ends of justice and to ensure a fair, impartial, honest and competent inquiry, the probe is transferred to Dr Suddle for having experience and standing to act independently, fairly and justly. The professionalism and thoroughness of the inquiry undertaken by him into thousands of missing NATO contained persuaded the judges to do so.
Dr Suddle, a former police officer, who enjoys excellent personal relations with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, but whose integrity is above board, is assigned to investigate the culpability of Malik Riaz, Arsalan, Salman Ali Khan and all those others who may be found involved in criminal activities in the light of the June 14 court order and the observations made in the review judgment; to specify the legal provisions and offences, if any, which may be attracted in the case based on the fact finding undertaken by him; to inquire into and ascertain such facts as may be relevant connected with or ancillary to the determination of the matter and to set the machinery of the State in motion so that all those who may have committed illegal acts are pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigour of the law.
Dr Suddle has always been a favourite of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) as he has been earning prestigious postings during its tenure in government. However, he did a memorable job when he worked as the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police during 1995-96 in the operation against the mafia in Karachi. He then worked under the supervision of Interior Minister Maj-Gen (retd) Naseerullah Babar. He was given the tough job on the recommendation of the then Chief of Army Staff, General Wahid Kakar, during the tenure of the second Benazir Bhutto government. As the present regime came in place, it made him the director general of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). On his retirement from government service, he was nominated as the FTO. A few months back, he was offered the post of the IB chief, but he declined. Indeed, he will carry out the investigation into Malik Riaz-Arsalan controversy without fear or favour. He can't be bought or cowed down by anybody.
While formal proceedings have been set motion against Qadir, the bench ordered that Memon and Malik should be kept posted at the Islamabad Police Headquarters during the course of the inquiry, which should not preclude departmental authorities from taking disciplinary proceedings against them in accordance with law as has also been recommended by the inquiry committee of the interior ministry. The order said that there appears to be sufficient material on record to show, prima facie, that Memon, Tahir Malik may have submitted false, dishonest or deliberately misleading statements in the court during these proceedings or during inquiries ordered by it. Prima facie, Memon has not been forthright, honest and truthful in his reply filed in court.
The court noted that the NAB may have wilted under the outside influence of the attorney general and may, therefore, not be in a position to conduct an impartial inquiry in the matter. When the bench passed its June 14 order, it had no reason to believe that Qadir will go beyond the simple and limited act of setting the machinery of the State in motion. It was disturbed to see that he chose to write a letter to the NAB, seeking the setting up of a joint investigation team (JIT), overstepping its order. Additionally, it noted that events show either bias or lack of transparency or gross incompetence on the part of NAB or that the proceedings of the inquiry may have been tainted by considerations other than merit. It can't find any other explanation as to why NAB and the five-member JIT which supposedly comprised upright and diligent officers failed to abide by law or adhere to norms demonstrating fairness, competence and transparency.
The JIT formed by the NAB on the basis of the letter of the attorney general was headed by the NAB's director general, financial crimes, Memon and three other officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and NAB. Arsalan filed with the bench a graphic detail showing how all the members of the JIT were biased and prejudiced against him and his father and are supportive of his rival. However, with the JIT now dead and gone, it is widely hoped that Dr Suddle would carry out the investigation fairly, honestly and impartially given his track record throughout his career in police service. His performance as FTO is spectacular especially his probe into the NATO containers on the Supreme Court order in which he took the mafia head on and did the task assigned to him fearlessly and boldly.