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Accountability court re-indicts former minister, wife in assets case

Updated February 13, 2019

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Asma Alamgir and Arbab Alamgir (L) talk to the media. — APP/File
Asma Alamgir and Arbab Alamgir (L) talk to the media. — APP/File

PESHAWAR: An accountability court here on Tuesday re-framed charges against former federal minister Dr Arbab Alamgir and his wife and former MNA, Asma Alamgir, after deleting a paragraph about their alleged foreign properties as the National Accountability Bureau failed to produce any evidence in that respect.

Judge Ishtiaq Ahmad accepted an application of Ms Asma challenging the earlier charges framed against her and her husband, saying the paragraph related to the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) requests to other countries in relation to her alleged foreign properties should be deleted from the charge sheet for being based on contemplation and not evidence on part of the NAB.

In the charge sheet, the trial court had on Jan 10 mentioned: “That the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request is being persuaded by the NAB and upon receipt of record the same will be submitted before the court by filing a supplementary reference.”

Deletes paragraph about couple’s alleged foreign assets from charge sheet

The court re-indicted the couple only for their properties in Pakistan, which the NAB Khyber Pakhtunkhwa claimed valued Rs332 million and that the same were disproportionate to known sources of their income.

The couple pleaded not guilty and decided to stand trial. The court fixed Mar 5 for next hearing and summoned four prosecution witnesses for that date.

Barrister Masroor Shah, the defence counsel, contended that the paragraph in the charge sheet was vague, ambiguous and potential to cause prejudice to the accused and defendant case.

He argued that a mere contemplation of the prosecution could not be included into a charge as a charge could only include concise and precise statement about nature of offence for which the accused is to be tried.

The NAB in its reference has claimed that a supplementary reference regarding their foreign assets would be filed after receipt of documentary evidence through Mutual Legal Assistance from foreign countries.

Barrister Masroor said the inclusion of evasive statements not describing any offence for which the accused was to be tried and mere future contemplation and the wish list of the prosecution in the charge would render such charge defective and any trial conducted on basis thereof should be a travesty of justice thereby infringing upon fundamental right of fair trial as envisaged by Article 10-A of the Constitution.

He said under Section 221 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, every charge was bound to state the offence with which the accused was charged.

The lawyer added that under Section 222 of CrPC the Charge must contain such particulars as to the time and place of alleged offence and the person against whom it was committed.

Meanwhile, Dr Arbab Alamgir and Ms Asma, who was the adviser to then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, amid strict security arrangements with the police personnel deputed at the entrance to the accountability courts in large number.

Ms Asma hailed the court’s decision of re-framing the charges saying it was their first victory in the legal battle in the case which was not based on any evidence.

She said the entire reference was based on lack of evidence and rumours.

The former MNA said the reference filed against them by the NAB was based on mala fide intentions.

She said the NAB had begun inquiry against them around four years ago but could not trace any wrongdoings against her.

Ms Asma added that finally, she had to move the Peshawar High Court, which ordered NAB to complete their investigation within two months.

She said there were two different standards of accountability by the NAB.

The former lawmaker said though there were clear proofs of illegal assets of the prime minister’s sister, the bureau had turned a blind eye towards her, whereas a reference was filed against her though there existed no evidence.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2019