A Lahore district court on Sunday sent PTI President Parvez Elahi on 14-day judicial remand, rejecting the Anti-Corruption Establishment request for his physical remand in a case pertaining to illegal recruitments in the Punjab Assembly.
Elahi was presented before the court today by ACE officials amid tight security after he was re-arrested for the second time in two days on Saturday. However, he was taken away by ACE officials after the court reserved its decision on the the authority’s plea for his 14-day physical remand.
According to an ACE spokesperson, the case of the illegal appointments alleges that Elahi recruited 12 Grade-17 officers in the Punjab Assembly against merit.
“He got changed the results of these candidates belonging to Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin. We have collected evidence and also arrested Secretary Punjab Assembly Rai Mumtaz Hussain in this regard,” he told Dawn.
In its short written order, the court observed that the ACE sought Elahi’s 14-day physical remand “for completion of the investigation and recovery as the accused persons are specially nominated in the FIR (first information report)”.
The order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the court was told that Elahi’s mobile phone was needed for forensic analysis and “bribery of Rs15 million is to be recovered from his possession, which he had taken being speaker of the [Punjab] Assembly for appointments on grade-17 posts.
“Moreover the forged documents are also to be recovered from his possession.”
The court further observed that perusal of the record “reveals that even if the whole FIR be treated as gospel of truth, it is mentioned there that the departmental selection committee presided over by the present accused, Parvez Elahi, on Aug 9, 2021 committed forgery with written exams, declared successful candidates failed and for ulterior motives, recruited the failed candidates in BS-17 in the Assembly Secretariat and caused colossal loss to the government exchequer”.
But, the order said, “There is no denial of the fact that all the recruited candidates are still working in BS-17 in the Assembly Secretariat till today and no action has been taken against them. Not even a single affectee except the present complainant approached the ACE for registration of an FIR against the departmental selection committee.”
Judicial Magistrate Ghulam Murtaza Virk presided over today’s proceedings.
At the outset of the hearing, the ACE expressed a lack of confidence in judicial magistrate Virk, with one of the establishment’s director, Jam Salahuddin, saying they had received instructions that he should not hear the case.
For his part, the judge said, “A campaign is being run against me. I don’t have any account on Facebook. I don’t have any account on social media.”
The context of this conversation remains unclear.
Following this exchange, the ACE official told the magistrate that they needed some time to file their request with a sessions judge for changing the judge in this case.
“I have received the instructions and we will submit a request to a sessions judge, but we need some time for that,” he said.
At that, Elahi’s lawyer, Rana Intizar, argued that the court timings were about to end and said they would get a case registered against the ACE director if Elahi was “taken away again today”.
Then, on the ACE official’s request, judge Virk suspended the session for a while.
After the hearing resumed, the ACE’s legal counsel presented his arguments upon which the judge said that the FIR mentioned the results of Open Testing Service were changed.
“Where are those changed papers?” he asked.
The ACE counsel said the results of the testing service were “tampered” with and were still available online.
Then Elahi’s lawyer began presenting his arguments, saying that Punjab Assembly Secretary Rai Mumtaz, who was also arrested in the case yesterday, wanted to say something.
Upon the magistrate’s assent, Rai told the court that he was the coordination secretary in the provincial legislature at the time when the alleged illegal appointments were made to it.
“I was walking last night when I was picked up. I was blindfolded and taken around. They took me to a place where the anti-corruption director general was present.
“He (ACE DG) said, ‘Do you want to remain in your position?’ When I said yes, he forced me into becoming a witness. My testimony was forcefully recorded from me, and I couldn’t sleep all night.”
At one point during the hearing, the judge addressed the ACE’s reservation about him hearing the case, saying he was the same judge who had granted physical remand of PTI workers and yet today there was an issue being raised about him presiding over the case.
“If you don’t like my decision, you can challenge it,” he said.
While conversing with the judge, the ACE’s lawyer contented that contenders scoring 60 marks were failed and those with merely an score of eight were passed.
“All this evidence is on record and we need Elahi’s 14-day physical remand,” he said.
Presenting his arguments, Elahi’s lawyer contended there was no other allegation against his client apart from changing in the test results. He said the Punjab Assembly speaker had the right to appoint anyone, adding that the OTS was still functional and could not be questioned.
He said candidates had appeared for exams after which their results were sent to the Punjab Assembly secretary, interviews were conducted on the basis of merit and joining letters were issued to those who passed.
“Those who were appointed are still working. Had there been any problem, they would’ve been stopped from working,” he said, adding that no evidence was presented in court against his client. He requested the court to discharge Elahi from the case.
The judge subsequently reserved his decision on ACE’s request for Elahi’s physical remand.
Announcing its decision later, the court rejected the ACE’s request for Elahi’s physical remand and sent him to jail on 14-day judicial remand.
Elahi asserts support for PTI
After the decision was reserved, Elahi said while speaking to the media at the court that
media personnel knew better than him “who is behind” the cases against him, adding that the police did not have anything to do with it.
“I am sending a message for the first time to those who are actually doing all these things: Listen, we are not against the army, we are in its favour and we don’t have anything to do with that which hurts the army … sit down with us and tell us the way forward for how to take the country forward,” he said.
He also said that he would openly correct the PTI chief on his mistakes.
“Come let’s together [decide] in the country’s benefit. The army is a very big institution and is our own. We want to move forward together.”
Ahead of the hearing, Elahi said while speaking to the media that even if “they register 100 cases [against me], it would not make a difference”.
He added that his message to PTI members and supporters was to “put up a fight against these tactics employed by them [authorities] with bravery and not to get worried”.
“Stand firm and continue to fight against them,” he added.
Asked whether he was still standing with the PTI, he replied, “For sure, for sure.”
Earlier, Elahi’s lawyer Rana Intizar told Dawn.com that he would continue to fight the PTI president’s case despite threats.
“This is my job and no one can stop me from doing it,” he said, condemning the interim government’s “interference” in the matters of the court.
ACE to move high court against Gujranwala court judgement: DG
After the decision was reserved, ACE DG Sohail Zafar Chattha insisted while speaking to the media that the case from which Elahi was discharged by a Gujranwala court yesterday was a “genuine case”.
“Our request for remand yesterday was denied and he was discharged on a technical basis,” he said, terming the judgement “illegal”.
“We will now approach the high court against it,” he added.
The DG cited ACE rules, saying that the ACE deputy DG could “arrest anybody”, including officers of grade 22. “Moreover, Parvez Elahi is no more a chief minister, he is not a grade 22 officer,” who could be arrested, he said.
Arrest and re-arrests
Elahi is among several PTI leaders and workers who have been arrested amid the state’s crackdown on the PTI leadership following the May 9 riots during protests over party chief Imran Khan being whisked away by the Rangers at the Islamabad High Court premises.
Currently, Shah Mahmoud Qureshi, Ali Muhammad Khan, Yasmin Rashid, Mehmoodur Rasheed and others from the PTI are also under arrest.
Elahi was first arrested by ACE officials from outside his residence on June 1 in a corruption case. However, the court termed charges against Elahi not “well-founded” and discharged him.
Soon after his discharge, Elahi was taken into custody again by anti-corruption officials in two cases — registered in Gujranwala — accusing him of causing a loss of Rs100 million to the national exchequer and receiving kickbacks during his time as Punjab chief executive.
On Saturday, Elahi was produced before Judicial Magistrate Mohammad Afzal’s court in Gujranwala. After the arguments from the ACE and Elahi’s lawyers, the court discharged the PTI president in both cases and ordered his immediate release if he was not required in any other case.
But the PTI president was arrested yet again eluded of his liberty and arrested for “illegal recruitments” in the Punjab Assembly.
ACE Director General Sohail Zafar Chattha said Elahi had been discharged in two corruption cases on “technical grounds” by the judicial magistrate Gujranwala that there was no mechanism to arrest a chief minister.
“The ACE has observed all legal and codal formalities for initiation of the inquiry and subsequent arrest of the former chief minister. There was no violation of any law or rules. The ACE will file an appeal against the judgment to discharge the accused as there is strong evidence of corruption in the project against him,” Chattha added.