An accountability court in Islamabad on Wednesday indicted Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in a corruption reference filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The reference was filed against Dar for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income.
The minister pleaded not guilty to all charges read out by Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir, terming them baseless. Following the indictment, NAB presented before the court a list of witnesses against the accused.
Dar’s counsel, Amjad Pervez, pleaded that his client did not receive the notice the court usually issues seven days prior to the indictment, but the judge told him that since his client had not appeared in the first hearing on Sept 19, this could be taken to mean that he was allowed the seven-day notice period.
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The court asked NAB prosecution to present at least two witnesses who would testify against Dar.
After the hearing, PML-N leader Tariq Fazal Chaudhry while talking to reporters said the court has summoned two witnesses, both of whom are are bank officials from Lahore, out of the 28 prosecution witnesses.
Meanwhile, the court rejected an application filed by Dar requesting exemption from personal attendance in court hearings and said the case would be heard on a day-to-day basis after Muharram holidays.
The hearing was subsequently adjourned till October 4.
A situation of chaos was observed outside the accountability court when Dar arrived for the hearing. The doors to the court were shut for reporters, and the finance minister had to wait at least 20 minutes outside before he was allowed to enter the court premises from the back door.
On Monday, Judge Mohammad Bashir had handed over a copy of the reference filed by NAB to Dar’s counsel, along with copies of related documents, which comprise 23 volumes.
The court had rejected a request by Dar’s counsel to grant them seven days to peruse the voluminous record, saying that since the Supreme Court had set a six-month deadline, it could not adjourn proceedings for a week.
On September 8, NAB had filed a reference against Dar, and three separate references against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children.
In the reference against Dar, the NAB alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests / resources in his own name and / or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx).” The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for.”
On Sept 18, the Lahore NAB wrote to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to remind them that since a reference was pending against him, “the bank accounts of Mr Dar may be cautioned”.
The bureau, however, left room for transactions from these accounts, as NAB has made them subject to the orders of the accountability court.
NAB has also written to district governments, asking them to stop any transfer or disposal of the properties owned by Dar, warning that in case of non-compliance, they could face up to three years in prison under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.
On Tuesday, an accountability court declined Nawaz Sharif’s request for exemption from personal attendance and issued bailable arrest warrants for Maryam, Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, as well as retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, for their absence from its proceedings.