Parvez Elahi Likely To Be Arrested After Eid Ul Fitr

Parvez Elahi Likely To Be Arrested After Eid Ul Fitr
LAHORE: The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) is all set to arrest former chief minister (CM) Punjab, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, for illegal recruitments in the Punjab Assembly (PA) during his tenure as PA Speaker. The arrest is likely to take place after Eid Ul Fitr, The Friday Times (TFT) has learnt.

Sources privy to this development confirmed to TFT that the inquiry in this regard is in its final stages, and three call-up notices had already been sent to Elahi. However, he had so far failed to appear or submit a reply to the notice in person or through his legal counsel. 

After the inquiry is completed, the case will be registered against the former Punjab chief minister, after which his arrest could be made as per the standard operating procedure of ACE. 

Illegal appointment of 200 people in lower cadres

“Parvez Elahi recruited around 200 people to lower cadre posts in Punjab Assembly - from grade 4 to grade 17 - illegally, during his term as speaker Punjab assembly during 2018-2022 and during 1997-1999,” a senior official said. 

He maintained that Elahi had also illegally appointed people in grade 17 and above, but initially the assembly staff was reluctant to share any record because of their unconditional loyalty towards Elahi. 

Sources recalled how the Punjab assembly's security personnel entered the assembly hall during the vote of no confidence against former CM Usman Buzdar. At the time, then-deputy speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari was attacked, and assembly security attacked legislators allegedly with Elahi's blessing. Then Elahi staged a ‘drama’ that his arm was broken amidst the chaos on the assembly floor. 

There are 'hundreds of Muhammad Khan Bhatti's' in Punjab Assembly

Sources said that there are hundreds of Muhammad Khan Bhatti's whose loyalty towards Elahi is without any shadow of doubt. "There are hundreds of people in Punjab Assembly who can go to any extreme when it comes to defending Elahi, as they were recruited by him by totally ignoring the merit". 

A senior official told TFT that initially they were not cooperating by providing records and other required documents, and added that PA recruitments don't fall under the ambit of Punjab government and it was also beyond the scope of ACE to get access to PA records. 

“We had to involve different departments and ministries to get hold of this data and documents,” a senior official said. 

Sources maintained that Elahi during his recent term had accommodated hundreds of people from his hometown Gujrat, as well as people who are close to him and his family. “Starting from gardeners to drivers, and from drivers to security officials, people from his hometown and constituency were accommodated after completely ignoring merit and relaxing the rules,” officials maintained. 

Why taking so long to arrest Elahi? 

When asked why it is taking so long to arrest him if the inquiry was in its final stages, an ACE official told TFT that there were clear instructions from DG ACE Sohail Zafar Chattha and Additional DG ACE Waqas Ul Hassan to operate by the book. "During investigation or probe, the accused must be treated in a manner in which we want ourselves to be treated, and inquire about everything while sitting on chair without any torture," were the orders, the official said. 

“So when we operate by the book, it takes time to complete the investigation,” the official concluded. 

The official maintained that all the inquiries are carried out on merit, and numerous inquiries against PTI MPAs, bureaucrats and government officials were dropped due to lack of evidence. "There is no political victimisation at all," the official stressed. 

Illegal transfers and postings 

It must be recalled that former principal secretary and close confidante of Elahi, Muhammad Khan Bhatti has admitted that illegal transfers and postings took place during Parvez Elahi’s tenure as chief minister, and that these were facilitated by taking bribes or posting blue-eyed officials at key posts. 

“Bhatti is a very cunning man; he hasn't named Elahi for direct involvement in any of the accusations and, in fact, named him between the lines, though he has named Moonis Elahi directly,” officials said. 

They maintained that once arrested, Elahi will also be interrogated for his involvement in these illegal transfers and postings. 

Sources maintained that many unusual transfers and postings were witnessed during Elahi's most recent stint as chief minister, and it is highly unlikely that Bhatti was making all of those decisions of his own personal will. 

“Elahi’s arrest might help in connecting the dots and establish the links between all of these things,” sources said. 

They added that Bhatti had already admitted receiving kickbacks and bribes on behalf of Moonis Elahi in different projects. 

Similar inquiry against Elahi dropped in 2021 

It is also pertinent to mention that an accountability court in Lahore gave a verdict on May 18, 2021 to close an inquiry into the illegal recruitment case against then-PA Speaker Parvez Elahi. 

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) itself submitted a plea regarding closure of inquiry against Elahi, where the NAB investigation officer presented a complete report stating that Elahi along with 79 others were facing inquiry regarding illegal appointments, and a majority of the accused had either passed away or have retired, and for these reasons they wanted to close this inquiry "due to lack of evidence". The plea was granted by accountability court judge Shaikh Sajjad Ahmad in his order to close the NAB inquiry.

Sources maintained that at that time, NAB was completely in control of SAPM Shahzad Akbar, and Elahi was one of the most important allies of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) due to which the inquiry against him was dropped. 

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.