ISLAMABAD - Supreme Court on Tuesday directed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to suggest as to what should be the forum to probe the alleged illegal transfer of 14,394 kanals of Auqaf land in Pakpattan three decades ago in 1986 when he was the chief minister of Punjab.

Sharif is granted seven days time to inform the court regarding the forum. The top court also granted exemption to Sharif from appearance and ruled that he can be represented by his counsel in the matter.

Sharif was accused that being the chief minister of Punjab in 1986 he ordered withdrawal of a notification issued in 1969 and returned Auqaf land to Dewan Ghulam Qutab in violation of the court’s order.

Initially the chief justice was of the opinion to carry out the probe through a Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

Earlier in the previous hearing, the top court had termed the Sharif’s reply vague and ordered him to appear in-person.

However, the three-judge bench headed by chief justice hearing the matter showed leniency and asked Sharif to suggest alternate forum after Sharif requested the bench not to constitute the JIT because his experience with it is not pleasant.

"Let's make you (Sharif) the judge then. Dispensing the justice is not only the job of courts and leaders like you are also to deliver the justice," the CJ told Sharif adding that the latter can suggest the forum for probe.

The bench observed that the denotification was an invalid exercise in the presence of ruling of concerned District and Session Judge and the Lahore High Court (LHC).

During the hearing, Sharif categorically denied that he had never ever approved any summary for de-notifying the notification of 1969 declaring property adjacent to the shrine of Hazrat Baba Farid-ud-Din Ganj Shakar in favour of Auqaf Department.

Sharif said that it is 32 years old case and he does not recall any such matter relating 1969 approved by him or his office adding that there is no such thing on record.

“What will be your opinion if we ask whether the entire matter is built on fraud,” said chief justice.

Responding to the query, Sharif said that in his presumption the chief minister office had asked the Department to move the summary again supposing mistake in numbering of the notification. “But the department had never moved the summary again,” he further responded.

Sharif also showed astonishment on the matter and contended that something shady happened at staff level adding that then secretary exercised his powers and issued notification.

However, the CJ questioned if the chief minister did not denotify the earlier notification then who did. He further remarked that the secretary had no authority to allot land to a private owner.

The chief justice further observed that if Sharif was not involved in the matter then he will be absolved of it.

The Auqaf Department through a notification dated January 17 of 1961 took over the administration, control, management and maintenance of the shrine of Hazrat Baba Farid-ud-Din Gunj Shakkar Sahib Pakpattan Sharif District Montgomery along with 6396 acres of attached Waqf property.

Subsequently, with the approval of the then Governor of Punjab, Auqaf Department issued a notification dated December 17, 1969 for taking over additional 72 squares of land.

The said notification was challenged by Dewan Ghulam Qutubud Din and four other persons in the court of District Judge, Sahiwal which was decided in favour of the Department through judgment on May 18 of 1977. On appeal, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on April 19, 1981 upheld the decision of District Judge Sahiwal against which Dewan Ghulam Qutubud Din filed an appeal before the Supreme Court which was pending with a stay order issued in his favour.

When on August 12, 1986, Dewan Ghulam Qutubud Din addressed an application to the Prime Minister of Pakistan through Governor Punjab, requesting the return of at least 72 acres of land.

The Punjab government in its report said that the perusal of the record shows that although pursuant to report called for in this regard by the then Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif, this Department had submitted summary recommending that application of Dewan Ghulam Qutubud Din may be filed as it did not merit consideration because of two judicial verdicts in favour of its take-over and on account of the case of Auqaf Department before Supreme Court being strong nevertheless the notification was withdrawn through another notification, apparently on the direction of the then Chief Minister on the said summary as conveyed by the then Secretary to the Chief Minister on 16.8.1986.  

It has also been observed that the noting portion of the file indicates that the aforesaid anomaly was noticed by an official of the Department who was processing the case at the relevant time, and it was suggested that this matter should be referred back to the competent authority for clarification, but the then Chief Administrator Auqaf overruled his suggestion and directed issuance of notification for withdrawal of 1969’s notification of taking over of the waqf land.

The Punjab government further stated that from a perusal of the record, it appears that there was no legal or factual basis for the withdrawal of 1969’ notification except for the reasons contained in the application. It said that the notification of 1986 merits recall.

Moreover, in view of the facts and circumstances noted hereinabove, the matter has been submitted for necessary information and appropriate directions of the worthy Chief Minister in this regard.