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ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court commences hearing a set of identical review petitions in the Rs35 billion fake bank accounts case, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari moved on Friday yet another petition seeking to restrain the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as well as the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from harassing members of the Zardari Group (Pvt) Limited.

A three-judge SC bench consisting of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan will take up on Tuesday (Feb 19) the review petitions filed by Mr Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Anver Majeed of the Omni Group of companies, the Sindh government and many others. They have filed the petitions to seek different remedies against the Jan 7 SC order in the fake accounts case.

Only the other day, Mr Zardari had moved an application requesting the apex court to fix the fake accounts case on Feb 12 since his liberty and free movement had been set at peril by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

In his earlier review petition against the Jan 7 order, the former president had pleaded that he had been subjected to a derogatory campaign to stigmatise and malign him politically for unreservedly standing by the downtrodden voiceless and weak segment of society and for the welfare and well-being of the people of the country and for the glory and grandeur of the motherland.

Moved by his counsel Sardar Latif Khosa, the fresh petition highlighted that parallel inquiries being conducted by the JIT and NAB were in violation of the law and the Constitution. It argued that FIA’s simultaneous inquiry was without jurisdiction and in violation of the Jan 7 order in which the entire matter was referred to NAB for further inquiry and filing of corruption references.

The petition alleged that till date the FIA was continuously and illegally probing the matter by summoning different persons, including Abu Bakr Zardari, the legal adviser of the Zardari Group, who had been asked by the agency to appear before it on Feb 12. And when he appeared before the FIA, the agency asked him about certain bank transactions of the Zardari Group, it claimed.

This amounted to parallel exercise of power because on the one hand NAB was probing the matter, and on the other, the FIA had started inquiring the same issue, the petition regretted.

“Inquiries by two forums are in absolute violation of the Jan 7 order since it will prejudice the trial of the accused persons,” the petition contended, adding that the FIA could not inquire the matter which had been referred to another forum i.e. NAB for the same purpose, thus the exercise of power by the FIA was arbitrary and illegal. “This also creates double jeopardy against the petitioners,” the application argued, highlighting again that simultaneous inquiries by two different forums were an abuse of process of law when the same matter was being adjudicated at different forums.

“The inquiries by two different forums also run contrary to the spirit of the rule of law and the enshrined proverb that all men are equal before law and Article 25 of the Constitution,” it said, adding that it came as a shock that the FIA had itself requested the apex court for the formation of JIT on Sept 5 last year. And despite having expertise and help of all departments of the federal and provincial governments at its disposal, the FIA could not find any culpability of the petitioner to enable it to file a final challan against the petitioner, the petition said.

It argued that the alleged failure of the FIA to find any substantial material against the petitioner pointed inescapably to the conclusion that the petitioner was innocent.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2019