Pakistan's top judge on Wednesday formed a bench to hear a case pertaining to the mysterious death of an official who was probing corruption allegations against Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and other senior political figures.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry converted a note submitted by the Registrar's office on the death of National Accountability Bureau official Kamran Faisal into a suo moto case and said a bench would begin hearing the matter from Thursday.
The chief justice, who has relentlessly pursued corruption cases against the government, announced his decision while hearing a case related to allegations of graft in the setting up of ‘rental power projects’ during Ashraf's tenure as power minister.
Faisal, an assistant director of the NAB, was found hanging from a fan in his room in a government hostel last Friday. A preliminary autopsy report concluded Faisal had committed suicide but his family has cast doubt on the findings, saying his body bore several injuries.
The government has set up a judicial commission headed by a retired judge to investigate the death but Faisal's family and colleagues have demanded an inquiry by a serving judge under the supervision of the supreme court.
During Wednesday s’ hearing of the rental power projects case, a bench headed by the chief justice rejected a request from the NAB to put off the matter in view of Faisal’s death.
The bench pulled NAB Prosecutor K K Agha after he told the court he was not aware whether an FIR had been registered over Faisal's death.
The bench noted that Faisal had died in mysterious circumstances, and the chief justice said it was not known whether he was murdered or had committed suicide. Under these circumstances, an impartial inquiry was necessary to bring those responsible to justice.
The chief justice remarked that on one side there were powerful accused and on the other, there was a dedicated investigator.
The bench also noted that Faisal's colleagues and relatives had expressed their reservations about the inquiry ordered by the government as senior political and government figures were involved in the rental power projects case.
It said it was the government's responsibility to protect professional and dedicated investigators. During the hearing, NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari retracted his statement that the probe into the rental power projects would be suspended till an inquiry into Faisal's death was concluded.
Bokhari told the court that NAB's investigation into the scam would continue. The bench subsequently put off the rental power projects case till January 29. The apex court had recently directed NAB to arrest Prime Minister Ashraf and other suspects in the rental power projects case.
However, the NAB Chairman informed the court that he did not have adequate evidence to make arrests. Media reports have said that Faisal had told colleagues he was under pressure from his superiors and had asked to be taken off the investigation.
Faisal's brother-in-law Hamid Munir came to the supreme court on Wednesday morning to appeal to the chief justice to take notice of his mysterious death. Munir said he was certain Faisal had not committed suicide.
"He was not worried and he had no problems," he told reporters. Nine Pakistani and foreign firms were accused of receiving over Rs 22 billion as advance payments for setting up rental power projects but most of them either did not set up plants or commissioned them after inordinate delays.
In March last year, the supreme court declared that the contracts for the power projects were not transparent and directed authorities to rescind them.