LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Monday issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on a petition moved by former chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Asif Hashmi, a senior figure in the Pakistan People’s Party, against his arrest in investment scam of Rs1870 million.

Asif Hashmi through his counsel said that he came to know about the cases when he returned to the country. The counsel he had approached the Supreme Court for his bail but his plea was denied. He said the NAB arrested him as he came out from the courtroom. He alleged that the NAB did not fulfill the legal formalities as he is completely unaware of the cases. He asked the court to declare his arrest illegal and unlawful and set aside the order of the physical remand.

After hearing initial arguments of the petitioner’s counsel, a division bench consisting of Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan and Justice Muhammad Tariq Abbasi issued notices to NAB and directed it to submit reply on April 14.

On March 20, an accountability court handed him over to NAB on a 15-day physical remand for investigation into the alleged scam of investment of Rs1870 million with M/s High Links (Pvt) Limited.

The accused served as chairman of the ETPB between 2007 and 2013 and fled the country in 2016.

According to the NAB authorities, Hashmi bypassed all defined prerequisites for investment with any company or private entity, and approved illegal investment worth Rs1870 million with M/s High Links (Pvt) Limited.

The officials said that Hashmi selected M/s High Links for investment in order to extend undue financial gratifications to the same in connivance with his co-accused. They told the court that the accused chaired all investment committee meetings held during 2009-12, gave approval for hefty amount for the said illegal investment and caused a huge loss to the state kitty.  They also alleged that he intentionally kept the concerned ministry in dark and misappropriated millions of rupees. Asif Hashmi was also accused of selling 1,946 kanals of land of the board to DHA on 25 a per cent exemption basis in 2009, whereas the same land was recommended by former ETPB chairman Gen Zulfiqar Ali Khan on 33 per cent exemption basis to DHA in 2001.

The land was situated in Dera Chahal, Lidher and Mota and difference of 8 percent caused a loss of Rs 2 billion while another 225 kanals was evacuated from DHA which was occupied in connivance with ETPB officials and Hashmi.

The then chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, took suo motu notice of this shady deal. During a hearing of the case, the then-CJP had observed that ETPB made an illegal agreement by closing their eyes and added that in accordance with the constitution and law the ETPB land could neither be sold nor be exchanged with other land.

During proceedings before the court on Tuesday, Advocate Haneef Tahir and Advocate Sohail Dar represented Hashmi before the court and said that he had nothing to do with the allegations levelled against him. They said the investment was allowed by a three-member committee while two-members of the same committee were appointed by the federal government. They said that being chairman of the board, he just signed three cheques. They opposed his physical remand.

However, NAB prosecutor Hafiz Asad Ullah said that Hashmi misused his authority and was summoned nine times by the NAB but he did not appear. He said he fled the country and now was arrested by the FIA and given into the custody of the NAB.