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ISLAMABAD: Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur on Monday filed in the Supreme Court a petition seeking review of its Jan 7 decision of referring the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report and evidence collected in the Rs35 billion fake bank accounts case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for further investigation.

“The petitioners have been subjected to a derogatory campaign to stigmatise and malign them politically for unreservedly standing with the downtrodden voiceless and weak segment of the society and for the welfare and well-being of the people of Pakistan and for the glory and grandeur of the motherland,” stated the 20-page review petition.

This time Sardar Latif Khosa, instead of Farooq H. Naek, will represent Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur before the apex court.

In the Jan 7 order authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, the apex court had directed NAB to associate JIT members for further probe, inquiry or investigation.

Jan 7 verdict referred JIT report and evidence to NAB for further investigation against former president, sister in fake accounts case

The review petition argued that the order was not warranted by the law since it was based on assumptions and surmises and also suffered from errors floating on the surface of the record. Despite a categorical pronouncement by the Supreme Court of removing the names of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the Exit Control List and JIT report for not being involved in any criminal malfeasance, non-mentioning of the same in the written order needed rectification, it said.

In its detailed order, the apex court had held that removing the names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah from the ECL and JIT report would not prevent NAB from probing them and if sufficient material was available connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, the bureau would not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government for placing their names on the ECL again or taking any appropriate action provided by the law.

Likewise, the petition argued, whether or not the verbal directives for expunging the names of Farooq Naek and Attorney General Anwar Mansoor’s brother from the JIT report were contradictory to the Jan 7 order. The result of alleged overstepping by the JIT from the task assigned to it by the apex court on Sept 5 last year was politically exploited by putting the names of 172 persons en masse on the ECL, the petition said.

It contended that the JIT had levelled unlawful allegations against Faryal Talpur when it was only directed to hold investigation against the Zardari Group of which she was only a director. Could the slackness in the progress in pending enquiries relating to fake bank accounts be good enough reason for the assumption of jurisdiction by the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution when many other investigations into serious cases had been pending for a long time, it asked.

The petition accused the JIT of stretching its probe into a roving inquiry and witch-hunting, thus crossing into unfathomed waters. It regretted that the functioning of banks and the business community as well as the public at large was being choked by freezing bank accounts, but the situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was being ignored completely where the heads of provincial anti-graft departments had been removed despite the fact that there were serious complaints against officers of the Khyber Bank and provincial ministers, as well as other widespread mal practices.

Throughout the course of history, the petition regretted, Mr Zardari was made to suffer on account of political victimisation and mudslinging. Time and again, he was made the target of political vendetta and vengeance, and he saw the rigours of jail numerous times in false and politically motivated cases for accumulative period of 11 years and had done so having faith in the independence of judiciary and the justice system of Pakistan, it said.

The petition argued that both Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur had been willing to join the investigations and had appeared before Federal Investigation Agency to record their statements, besides having multiple correspondences with the FIA, conveying their stance on the matter. The failure on the part of the FIA to find any substantial material against the petitioners pointed inescapably to the conclusion that both were innocent, it contended.

According to the law, the petition argued, the JIT report did not have any evidentiary value in the eyes of law and, therefore, the Supreme Court was not justified in passing any order at all giving directives to NAB and JIT, thereby curtailing the rights of the petitioners. “The Supreme Court order has created a separate forum by determination of criminal inquiry or investigations or criminal trial in the province of Sindh, which is unlawful,” it regretted.

The petition also deplored the shifting of the probe to the NAB Islamabad when the entire alleged record, witnesses and purported accused and issues pertained to the province of Sindh, specifically Karachi.

Moreover, Ms Talpur was mother of a special child and her other two daughters were in schools in Karachi and any proceedings outside of the premises of Karachi would prejudice her and her family and schooling of her children, the petition said, adding that the special child needed proper attention of her mother and for this reason the inquiry should be conducted in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2019