Has the president announced extraordinary remission of 1/4th of the total sentence for all the convicted criminals, excluding those involved in heinous crimes, whose number is said to be in thousands, just to benefit his jailed friend? Signs are that it was the prime motivation. The president’s interest in the massive relief, enacted in connivance with Prime Minister Gilani, is said to be his desperate desire to seek immediate release of his crony Ahmad Riaz Sheikh, the convicted former additional director general of FIA, who was sent to prison by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Sources said President Asif Ali Zardari’s Secretary Asif Hayat Malik contacted the Inspector General Prisons Punjab Kaukab Nadeem Warriach as soon as the president signed the Interior Ministry’s summary and asked the latter to immediately release Ahmad Riaz Shaikh. The spouse of the influential jailed convict and sitting PPP MPA in the Punjab, Shabina Riaz, is of the view that her husband has already completed his jail term and is not the beneficiary of the announced remission. The president’s Political Secretary Hasan Raza Abidi also endorses Shabina’s view and said this remission is a gift to prisoners on the occasion of the restoration of the democracy in the country.
“It has nothing to do with Riaz Shaikh,” Abidi said, adding Shaikh has already completed the five-year term of imprisonment. The presidential aide said more than 10,000 prisoners are going to benefit from this remission. The Punjab authorities, however, confirmed that Riaz Shaikh had not yet completed his five-year jail term and he had to stay behind the bars for four more months but the announced remission would benefit Shaikh in his immediate release. The Punjab government sources said that IG Prisons Kaukab Nadeem had informed his superiors that he was contacted by the Secretary to President, Asif Hayat Malik, who sought the release of the influential prisoner. Kaukab Nadeem when approached by this correspondent confirmed that he got a phone call from the president’s secretary, who, according to the IG, inquired from him the procedure about the execution of the presidential remission. He denied that the secretary to the president had sought the release of Riaz Shaikh. The sources said that son of Riaz Shaikh met the IG Prisons a few days back and sought remission of his father’s four-month remaining jail term but it was not agreed to by the jail authorities. When asked, Kaubab Nadeem admitted that Shaikh’s son met him three days back and said his father has already completed four years and eight months jail and sought remission of the remaining four months on the grounds that Riaz Shaikh has done an additional Urdu course that may earn the required remission for his father. Kaukab Nadeem said that he referred the Shaikh’s son’s request to his legal side, which after going through the request and the relevant rules, rejected the demand as the said Urdu course does not earn any remission for prisoners. Sources in the Home Department Punjab also confided to this correspondent that senior PPP minister Punjab Raja Riaz also talked to senior mandarins in the Home Department and asked for immediate processing of the case of Shaikh Riaz. But IG Kaukab Nadeem said that he told the secretary to the president that the remission order would be implemented only after it is processed through the federal Interior Ministry, sent to the provincial Home Department, referred to the Inspector General of Police, who will forward the same to the jail authorities for implementation. According to the government press release, the president announced the remission to celebrate the passage of the 18th constitutional amendment bill in the National Assembly. This special remission is being offered to all the prisoners, by remitting one fourth of their total sentences. Spokesman to the President Farhatullah Babar said the president granted the remission under powers available to him under Article 45 of the Constitution and on the advice of the prime minister. “The special remission is not for those who have been convicted of crimes such as murder, espionage, anti-state activities, terrorism, kidnapping and abduction for ransom, robbery and dacoity,” the press release said. Ahmed Riaz Sheikh, who was arrested from the premises of the Supreme Court on its order on March 30 for being a convict-cum-NRO beneficiary, was shifted to the jail hospital the moment he landed in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi because of his heart ailment.
Talking to The News senior correspondent Tariq Butt, Sheikh’s wife Shabina Riaz, who is member of the Punjab Assembly and Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Social Welfare, confirmed that her spouse was in jail hospital as he was a heart patient and had had three surgeries, the last one performed a year and a half back. “He can’t remain out of the hospital as he needs constant medical attention as, apart from the heart disease, he has multiple health problems,” she said. “I delivered to him a big envelope of medications the moment he was taken to the Adiala jail.” Shabina Riaz was not sure about the timing of Sheikh’s release but said she has already handed over the documents to the jail authorities showing that he has already undergone more than his sentence of five years and should be immediately released. “I think they are seeking verification of the official record I have given to them,” Shabina Riaz said, and added that as they would complete the verification, he would be set free because he couldn’t be kept in prison. The lady, who spoke in a very humble voice, was apprehensive of the way her husband had been treated and said that the family had suffered for over 13 years. She said the long journey has still not ended. Moments after Sheikh’s arrest, deeply annoyed Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders, including Fauzia Wahab and Nabil Gabol, had stated that he had already completed his five-year sentence that the Lahore High Court had reduced from 14 years, imposed by the accountability court. Despite the Supreme Court’s verdict on the NRO, Ahmed Riaz Sheikh was not only allowed to continue as additional director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) by the government but it had earlier given him two rapid promotions after reinstating him in the government service. As the apex court took notice of this case after a few news stories appeared in this newspaper, the government was pushed in a difficult spot and was at a loss to explain to the court as to why he was reinstated, promoted and was still continuing even after the ruling on the NRO on Dec 16, 2009. It is also said that it is unusual to announce remission of 1/4th of the total sentence as usually remission of one month or so is announced on happy occasions.
By: The News