ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has summoned former president Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to appear before it in Rawalpindi on Dec 13 in connection with the purchase of a plot of land by a company owned by Mr Zardari.

Talking to Dawn here on Sunday, PPP Secretary General Farhat­ullah Khan Babar confirmed that the PPP chairman had received a notice from NAB asking him to appear before it. He, however, expressed his ignorance whether NAB had also summoned Mr Zardari.

Mr Babar explained that Mr Bhutto-Zardari had been asked to respond to the questions related to the purchase and demarcation of a plot in Islamabad by Park Lane Estates (Pvt), which is owned by Asif Zardari, as his name was mentioned as a “minority shareholder” in the company.

He said the company had been set up by Mr Zardari in 1989 when the PPP chairman was just one-year old.

Notices issued in connection with demarcation of land purchased by a Zardari-owned firm

Mr Babar alleged that the main purpose of summoning Mr Bhutto-Zardari was to hold his media trial as it would be a big news for TV channels.

Meanwhile, NAB spokesman Nawazish Ali told Dawn that the notices had been issued to both Mr Zardari and Mr Bhutto-Zardari.

It is for the first time that Mr Bhutto-Zardari has received any such summon.

Earlier, the PPP chairman had already received two questionnaires from a joint investigation team (JIT) probing money laundering allegations against his father and aunt Faryal Talpur.

The JIT had been formed on the orders of the Supreme Court in October to probe alleged laundering of billions of rupees through fake bank accounts in connivance with bankers and others to allegedly benefit several people, including Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur.

Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur had already appeared before the JIT. Mr Zardari had told investigators that he had not been involved in any business activity since 2008.

Sources said that Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Dec 12 to attend the National Assembly session.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the PPP chairman’s spokesman, however, said that Mr Bhutto-Zardari would not personally appear before NAB, but he would be represented by former law minister Senator Farooq Naek.

“On Dec 13, his legal counsel will appear before the NAB authorities and answer their queries,” said Mr Khokhar.

He said the notice reeked of “mala fide intentions” and it was obvious that NAB was rather swift in targeting opposition leaders while cases of members and ministers of the government had been put in cold storage.

Saeed Ghani, a PPP leader, said in a statement on Sunday NAB did not have the courage to summon Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khan in an “ill-gotten assets case” because the bureau was not being used for accountability but for “political victimisation”.

He claimed that “a false press release” was issued on Saturday to keep the meeting between the NAB chairman and the prime minister the previous day a secret.

The PPP leader alleged the NAB chairman had become a “puppet of Imran Khan” and the institution had become only a tool in the hands of the government to victimise its political opponents.

Mr Ghani accused the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of carrying out a media trial of politicians. Society will be destroyed if institutions were run on dual standards, he said.

In June last year, Islamabad’s Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz had requested the capital administration to get 118.4 kanals of state and forest land in Sangjani area vacated from the Park Lane Estate Company, contending that the firm had got the land on the basis of an allegedly vague demarcation carried out in 2012. The Capital Development Authority challenged the demarcation in 2014 before the collector’s court.

In 2015, the collector set aside the 2012 demarcation and the piece of land reverted to the state. But the company filed an appeal before the same court, and in Sept 2016, the collector ordered a fresh demarcation.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018