ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s lawyer on Wednesday raised questions regarding the relevance of the first prosecution witness and objected to the admissibility of evidence procured from the witness by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The counsel made the objections after Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir recorded the statement of Bank Al-Falah Manager Operations Ishtiaq Ali, in whose branch Mr Dar held a personal and company account until 2006.

NAB Special Prosecutor Imran Shafiq produced the witness and exhibited the relevant documents in the assets reference against Mr Dar, which defense counsel Khawaja Haris described as “completely irrelevant”.

Initially two prosecution witnesses – Mr Ali and Tariq Javed – were brought before the court, but only the former could testify and be cross-examined due to a time constraint.

Advocate Haris pointed out that the court had not as yet issued a charge sheet to the accused. Judge Bashir then asked court staff to provide a copy of the charge sheet to the counsel of the accused.

Mr Ali told the court that his bank received three letters from NAB on August 16, 2017, requiring details of Ishaq Dar’s bank accounts. In compliance, the bank’s account manager submitted documents pertaining to a company named HDS Securities Pvt Ltd on August 27 and 28.

Bank manager presents account details of security firm linked to finance minister

He said the last transaction from the company’s account was made on July 25, 2005, while the account was formally closed on February 2, 2016.

During cross-examination, Advocate Haris pointed out that NAB did not summon the record related to HDS Securities. He also pointed out that the original documents were somewhat different from the certified copies the bank had provided to the prosecution, saying that the photocopies did not reflect the official bank stamp.

During cross-questioning, the witness admitted that he did not prepare these documents, nor was he their author. He also could not produce any evidence to show whether he was the custodian of the warehouse where the bank kept such documentation.

Advocate Haris concluded the cross-examination saying: “the evidence produced by the witness is inadmissible, since none of the documents were prepared or executed by the witness”.

The court noted the objections and adjourned further proceedings until Oct 12.

At the next hearing, the accountability judge has summoned Al-Baraka Bank Senior Vice-President Tariq Javed and Shahid Aziz of the National Investment Trust (NIT) to record their testimony.

Before the trial began, the judge clarified that he had not barred ministers from attending court proceedings.

But even though lawyers, mediapersons, litigants and even court staff criticized the sealing of the Federal Judicial Complex on Oct 2 – when former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeared before the court – NAB prosecutor Afzal Qureshi, who is not even pursuing the case against Mr Dar, approached the rostrum and appreciated Rangers’ deployment quite out of context.

After proceedings ended, IT minister Anusha Rehman – who is herself associated with the legal fraternity – told media persons it was strange the trial court had initiated proceedings against an accused and summoned witnesses before handing over the charge sheet.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2017



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