ISLAMABAD: Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has once again approached the Supreme Court for early hearing of his review petition in the Rs35 billion fake accounts case, preferably on Tuesday (Feb 12), saying his liberty and free movement is now in peril because of this case.

In a single page application filed through his counsel Sardar Latif Khosa, Mr Zardari contended that his liberty and free movement had been restricted by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) despite the fact that he was innocent.

On Jan 28, Mr Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur had sought review of the Jan 7 order in which the apex court had referred a report prepared by the joint investigation team (JIT) in the fake accounts case to NAB for further investigation.

Former president says his liberty and free movement is in peril because of case

Later Mr Zardari had also pleaded before the apex court that he had been subjected to a derogatory campaign. He claimed that he and other members of his party were being stigmatised and maligned politically for unreservedly standing with the downtrodden, voiceless and weak segments of society and for working for welfare and well-being of the people of Pakistan and for glory and grandeur of the motherland.

On Friday his son and PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as well as the Sindh government had also moved separate review petitions before the apex court against its Jan 7 order.

In the application, Mr Zardari regretted that he was facing the agony and deprivation of his fundamental rights, causing an irreparable loss to him.

Thus, according to the application, the interest of justice demands that the fake case be fixed for an earlier date preferably on Feb 12.

CM Shah’s review petition

In addition to Mr Zardari’s application, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also moved a review petition through his counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan with a pleading to recall and set aside the Jan 7 order and also order to expunge/quashed the allegations against him in the JIT report in the fake account case.

In the written order issued by the SC subsequent to Jan 7 verbal orders, the apex court had directed removing names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari as well as Sindh CM Shah from the Exit Control List (ECL), but allowed NAB to continue its probe against them. In case sufficient material is found against them, NAB can approach the federal government to place their names on ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by the law.

Mr Shah has pleaded before the court that Jan 7 order suffers from errors floating on the surface of the record and, therefore, it should be reviewed. No case had been made out against him in the JIT report which could even remotely fall within the purview of Section 9 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), he added.

Therefore, further probe or investigation against him was neither warranted nor plausible, he argued in the review petition.

The petition recalled that the counsel for the JIT during the hearing had candidly and fairly accepted before the SC that the so-called material against CM Shah required re-examination to reach a correct conclusion. And on the basis of the concession by the counsel for the JIT, the apex court had directed that petitioner’s name be removed from the ECL and quashed from the JIT report.

But the written order did not contain the directive which was given in the open court, the petition contended, adding it seemed it was evidently because of a typographic error.

The petition contended that CM Shah had been condemned unheard when he was not a party before the SC and was never ever issued any notice even after the JIT report was furnished before the court.

Moreover, CM Shah was never ever summoned by the JIT during its investigations or confronted with any evidence or material against him, the petition said, adding he was also not given the opportunity to provide any explanation to the allegations levelled against him in the JIT report.

The petition argued that the JIT was constituted to inquire into the transactions relating to alleged fake accounts and persons involved in relation to these bank accounts. The probe team did not have the mandate to conduct an open-ended roving inquiry against any person, such as the chief minister who admittedly had no direct or indirect connection with any of the alleged fake accounts.

Thus, the JIT went beyond the mandate given to it and unlawfully conducted a fishing inquiry against the chief minister, the petition pleaded.

CM Shah’s petition also contended that since the investigation was conducted initially by the Federal Investigation Agency and the JIT in Karachi and that the allegations were also related to events which purportedly occurred in Karachi, therefore, the case had no connection whatsoever with Islamabad. Therefore, the case should be tried in Karachi and not in Islamabad/Rawalpindi as directed by the Jan 7 orders.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2019