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SECP Case: More in-depth investigation needed

SECP record tampering case: Judge questions Zafar Hijazi’s sole liability

A special court of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has noted that the alleged tampering with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) record related to a sugar mill of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family was not an individual’s act.

In a detailed order on former SECP chairman Zafarul Haq Hijazi’s post-arrest bail, Judge Irum Niazi observed that it has yet to be ascertained if he had pressured his subordinates or the backdated closure of the case record had been made by all of them with consensus. At this stage, a deeper appreciation of the evidence could not be made, she said.

However, she added, a tentative look at the evidence showed that the closure note in back date had been made after meetings and detailed discussions among SECP officials Maheen Fatima, Tariq Ahmed, Ali Azeem, Tahir Mahmood and Abid Hussain, as they had signed the document along with the applicant.

“All of them are sailors of the same boat,” the judge stated in her order.

She said independent corroborating evidence was needed in addition to the statements of the officers who had signed the closure note in back date.

“It is yet to be ascertained that either such alleged undue influence and pressure was made by applicant or said closure note was made with consensus, which needs consideration and makes it a case of further inquiry,” Judge Niazi stated.

The order expressed displeasure over FIA investigation officer Farooq Latif for not having provided Mr Hijazi an opportunity to put up his defence while recording the statements of the witnesses under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate.

On July 14, Mr Latif presented Ms Fatima, Mr Azeem, Mr Mahmood and Mr Hussain before the magistrate to record their statements as witnesses but Mr Hijazi, who had offered himself for investigation, was not called, thus ignoring the related provision of the law, it said.

The order said that the “evidence shows that in the month of June 2016 it was discussed in detail amongst Tariq Ahmed and Maheen Fatima that closure report was required to be made in the year 2013” and interference of Mr Hijazi “is not found anywhere as it was discussed” between the two.

Emails shared among Mr Ahmed and Ms Fatima showed that the note of closure of investigation was required as it had been discussed among the relevant staff — commissioner Mahmood, director Fatima and executive directors Hussain and Azeem, it said.

Mr Hijazi was granted bail on Aug 8 with the special court’s observation that the case required further inquiry.

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