A banking court in Karachi on Monday reserved its verdict on a request made by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman seeking the transfer of the fake bank accounts case against Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and others to the accountability court of Rawalpindi for trial.
During the hearing today, Zardari's counsel Farooq H. Naek argued that the Supreme Court, in its verdict in January this year, had ordered NAB to further the investigation and not to transfer the case. He claimed that NAB was trying to "pressurise the banking court" by filing transfer requests as he urged the court to reject the appeal.
Reading out the first information report filed by the Federal Investigation Agency, Naek said that the fake bank accounts case did not fall under NAB's jurisdiction as it did not include the charges of corrupt practices and corruption. The charges did not include "deceiving the public" either, he said.
Zardari's counsel said that there were "no grounds" for transferring the case to Rawalpindi, and pointed out that the top court had ordered that NAB concludes its investigation within two months, which he said had already lapsed. He further said that it was "important to review" Section 16-A (transfer of cases) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The counsel for Hussain Lawai, another co-accused in the case, also opposed NAB's request and said that only the Supreme Court had the authority to order the transfer of a case.
The NAB prosecutor, however, maintained that the corruption watchdog's chairman had approved the transfer of the said case in accordance with the Supreme Court's order.
He further said that NAB was preparing 16 references on the orders of the top court, and alleged that the defendants' lawyers were taking the court "in the wrong direction".
The court will announce its decision on NAB's request on March 15. The bails of Zardari, Talpur and others were also extended.
Last month, a NAB prosecutor had filed a statement with the trial court on behalf of Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal, stating that the investigation of the case had been transferred to the anti-graft watchdog by the apex court. Therefore, he requested the trial court’s judge to transfer the proceedings of trial in the present case to the accountability court in Rawalpindi.
The prosecutor had also submitted supporting documents, including approval recently accorded by the NAB chief to a summary seeking transfer of the case from the banking court to the accountability court of Rawalpindi in terms of the Section 16-A (transfer of cases) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the apex court in its report has accused 172 people of having fake bank accounts and indulging in money laundering. They include Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Talpur, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz.