KARACHI: An accountability court on Monday extended physical remand of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) till March 21 for interrogation in connection with three inquiries pertaining to the alleged accumulation of assets beyond his known sources of income.
Having been detained from a hotel in Islamabad last month, Mr Durrani is being investigated for allegedly accumulating moveable and immovable assets, for making 352 illegal appointments, embezzlement of public funds in the construction of the MPA Hostel and the new Sindh Assembly building as well as appointment of project directors for these projects.
On Monday, the NAB investigating officer produced Mr Durrani before the administrative judge of the accountability courts, Dr Sher Bano Karim, amid tight security to seek extension in his physical remand.
A large number of charged Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) activists gathered and chanted slogans outside and inside the courtroom. Some of them also pushed and shoved the reporters, and snatched their mobile phones to stop them from making video.
Taking serious notice of it, the judge directed the court staff to take the activists out of the courtroom.
The IO mentioned that a property of Mr Durrani had also been found in Abbottabad, valued at Rs27 million, but he disclosed its value at around Rs4m. He added that a bungalow of the suspect worth Rs40m was found in DHA while 10 Rolex watches were found in his bank locker in addition to gold, foreign currency and other valuables.
The IO informed that the investigators had only two days to interrogate Mr Durrani since after having his breakfast he went to the Sindh Assembly to attend sessions. The suspect spent less time in the detention centre, even then he complained about maltreatment, the IO added.
He requested the judge to extend the suspect’s remand in NAB custody for another 15 days to complete the interrogation and other legal formalities.
Objecting to the IO’s request, defence counsel Amir Raza Naqvi contended that Mr Durrani was being kept in a room where there was no access of sunlight. He further contended that NAB officials just detained his client without realising the stage of the case and obtained his client’s remand from Islamabad’s accountability court merely on the ground that he owned “assets beyond known sources of income”.
Mr Naqvi said his client was a pubic representative and sitting assembly speaker, questioning why the details of his assets had not been obtained from the Federal Board of Revenue and the Election Commission of Pakistan and why the same were not compared with those details from other sources.
On the other hand, the prosecutor submitted that NAB had more details of the assets than those that had been disclosed by Mr Durrani. He added that the suspect had only disclosed Rs84m as his income since 1985.
He requested for time to produce complete details of his assets and added that so far assets worth Rs360m had been found.
To this, Mr Naqvi said NAB might arrest his client once they had complete details of the assets allegedly owned by Mr Durrani.
The prosecutor contended that the prosecution could not be stopped from interrogating a suspect and added that a reference would be filed on completion of the investigation.
An exchange of heated arguments ensued between the defence counsel and the prosecutor as the IO kept producing irrelevant documents when inquired by the judge.
Advocate Naqvi argued that his client was being kept in unlawful detention since NAB lacked sufficient evidence against his client and pleaded to release him unless such evidence was collected by the prosecution.
Allowing the IO’s request, the judge remanded Mr Durrani in NAB custody for interrogation till March 21. The IO was directed to produce him on the next date and also submit a progress report.
‘Maltreatment and harassment’
Mr Durrani complained that he was not being allowed to sleep in custody by the NAB officials while he was being kept with eight others in one detention room.
NAB officials informed that the out-of-order fans in the detention centre had been fixed while air conditioners had also been installed to address such complaints.
Mr Durrani also complained that his family members were constantly being harassed as their mobile phone calls were being tapped.
“They kept searching in the basement of my house. Such treatment can only be expected in the martial law era,” he deplored. “I am not a terrorist, who may abscond. The way my media trial is being conducted is very sad,” he added.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2019