ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has challenged the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict to halt the inquiry into the 15-year-old case of privatisation of Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) against Mian Muhammad Mansha in the apex court, it was learnt here.

The NAB had conducted a preliminary inquiry into the privatisation of MCB in the year 2001-2002. During the inquiry various aspects of the privatisation process, including authenticity and value of bid bond, were furnished, as well as the first and third tranches of payment examined by MCB sponsors.

A high-level meeting was held at that time in the finance ministry, which was attended by the privatisation minister, the then chairman NAB, State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) governor and others.

In that meeting, the case was referred to the SBP in 2004. The case remained unattended with the SBP and no action was taken for 11 years.

In light of the Supreme Court’s observations on July 9, 2015 to proceed further in the matter of privatisation of MCB, NAB conducted an inquiry on four allegations.

The first was favours extended to the National Group in pricing and process of privatisation. The second was submission of fake/fraudulent bid bond of Rs100 million to the government of Pakistan for the bidding of MCB. The third was using Islamic Bank Al Bahrain funds for payment to the government for the purchase of MCB’s share in the 1st tranche. The fourth was using MCB’s funds for payment to the government to purchase bank shares in the third tranche.

Later, Mansha and others challenged the NAB’s inquiry against them before the LHC in October 2015. They contended that the NAB had no jurisdiction to conduct such an inquiry under NAO 1999 and only the Privatisation Commission and State Bank could conduct such an inquiry.  The LHC’s judge in chamber on January 10, 2017 stayed the inquiry pending before the NAB against the respondents.

Now the NAB, challenging the LHC’s verdict, stated that the order contains errors of law and it is not sustainable in law. The LHC judge in chamber did not decide the matter of maintainability of the suit and framed the preliminary issue.

NAB Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar stated that criminal proceedings cannot be stayed in view of Section 26 (e) Specific Relief Act 1877 and the law laid down by the country’s superior courts.

“The high court is not bound to decide the suit within the period of six months and the court by framing the preliminary issue is unable to act in accordance with the spirit of law.”

The NAB requested the SC to allow it to proceed with the inquiry in the interest of justice.

Though the NAB did not challenge the LHC’s three-year-old verdict regarding quashing of the Hudabiya Papers Mills scam reference against the Sharif family, it has taken a stand to file an appeal against LHC’s January 10 interim order to stay the inquiry against Mansha and others.