Why FIA chief opted for leave?

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ISLAMABAD: Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Memon has proceeded on a 15-day leave because of the pressure to arrest a number of opposition leaders that he refused to accept on the ground that there is no credible case or incriminating evidence against them.

“Interior Minister Brig. (R) Ijaz Shah, who is the boss of the FIA chief, never exerted any pressure on Memon or any other officer to make any arrest. If there was any pressure on him as claimed, it may be from somewhere else but we are not aware of it,” Interior Ministry sources told The News on condition of anonymity.

They did not elaborate and made it clear that the interior minister has been allowing the heads and officials of his subordinate departments, FIA being one of them, to work as per the law.

Memon was repeatedly approached on his cell phone to get his version, but he did not respond. However, other sources said there was a long list of leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) given to the FIA chief but he declined to act on it. He was constantly prodded to take action against personalities, they said.

Sources said that to start with the FIA director general has gone on two weeks leave that he may be extending till his retirement on December 17 as he did not want to do anything that he has not done during his three-decade long service career.

They said that he has cited backache in his leave request that he developed during the recent performance of Umrah. A close associate of the FIA DG said that the officer has really developed a severe backache and he will be beck after recovering. Sources said that the federal government can’t remove Memon as the FIA Director General because the Supreme Court has stayed his transfer in the Asghar Khan case.

As Memon went on leave, the government made FIA’s Additional Director General Dr Mujeebur Rehman, the former Pakistan Railways police chief, the acting chief of the agency. They said Memon was asked more than once to catch hold of many opposition politicians, and the list ran into at least three dozens. However, they claimed, the FIA chief argued that he would not arrest anybody unless there was a solid case backed by proofs and evidence against them that stood the scrutiny of law in a court.

Sources said in the list figured PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and Ahsan Iqbal in connection with Judge Arshad Malik’s video leak case that the FIA investigated, PPP chief Bialwal’s spokesman Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar for his tangle with police in Islamabad during a party protest, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Hamza Shahbaz, Arsalan Iftikhar and others, who attackingly speak against the government. Memon was asked to bring Hussain Nawaz and Salman Shahbaz to Pakistan “dragging” from London, sources stated. They said that when he could not deliver and most of these political leaders were subsequently apprehended by NAB, he was reminded that although he refused to do so, they had been immediately detained on various charges.

When contacted, a NAB official said that the Bureau always takes action as per law and no witch hunting is done on the wishes of somebody else. He said that the Bureau does not take any action without tangible evidence.

Sources said the government was also annoyed with Memon-led FIA for clearing three accused – Nasir Janjua, Mahar Ghulam Jilani and Khurram Yousaf – in the video leak case and urged it to nab them again. As the FIA gave them a clean chit, they were released by a magistrate who came in after the actual trial judge, Shaista Kundi, recused herself from hearing the FIA plea of exonerating these accused.

Subsequently, another trial judge decided to arraign them, and the FIA is proceeding against its officials, who acquitted them. According to sources, the FIA has generally stayed away from cases of politicians over the past one year on the ground that they do not fall in its domain.

Only PML-N Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Amir Muqam’s son Ishtiaq was detained by the FIA in May on corruption charges, but was released after five days as an anti-corruption court granted him bail.

Meanwhile, circles close to the rulers said that no government department has been asked to arrest or haunt any specific persons. They said that all institutions, including FIA and NAB, are acting freely according to the law and there was no political pressure on them. Memon was appointed FIA chief by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the prime minister in August 2017. Before that, he served as the Inspector General of Police of Azad Kashmir. When Imran Khan became the Prime Minister, he chose to continue Memon as the FIA Director General.