ISLAMABAD, Nov 26: An accountability court here fixed Dec 9 as the date for indicting former president Asif Ali Zardari in four corruption references.
But the judge, Mohammad Bashir, directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to provide copies of the Cotecna reference to Advocate Farooq H. Naek, the counsel of Mr Zardari, after which the court would indict him in another reference.
After the indictment, the court will commence formal trial of Mr Zardari.
In the Cotecna reference, NAB has accused Mr Zardari of receiving six per cent of the value ($131 million) of a pre-shipment inspection contract awarded to the Swiss company, Cotecna.
Other references allege that Mr Zardari received kickbacks from pre-shipment inspection company Société Générale de Surveillance, granted a licence to ARY Gold which caused a huge loss to the national exchequer and received illegal gratification and commission in the purchase of Russian tractors under the Awami Tractor Scheme. One of the references alleges that a polo ground was constructed in the prime minister’s house on verbal orders of Mr Zardari and former chairman of the Capital Development Authority, Saeed Mehdi. The cost of the project was Rs52.29m of which Rs600,000 was embezzled.
Mr Zardari had been indicted in the references and faced trial till 2007 when the cases were closed after the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
A NAB official told Dawn that the former president had earlier been indicted under the Ehtasab Act promulgated in 1997 by the former government of the PML-N. At present, he is facing proceedings under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf in 1999.
According to the official, the punishment for offences under the Ehtasab Act was different from that under the NAO. Therefore, the court has to frame anew charges against Mr Zardari.
During the proceedings on Tuesday, NAB submitted a report about the serving of summons. It said the summons could not be served because he was living abroad and visited Pakistan for a brief period.
Mr Naek submitted an application for exempting Mr Zardari from appearing before the court on Tuesday because of security concerns.
But he assured the court that Mr Zardari would attend the next hearing because presence of an accused person was mandatory at the time of indictment.
The court granted exemption to Mr Zardari for one day and asked his counsel to ensure his presence at the next hearing.