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KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday granted 10-day protective/transitory bail to former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur to surrender before the trial court in a fake accounts and money laundering case.

Mr Zardari and his sister moved the SHC for protective bail after a banking court transferred the fake accounts case to Rawalpindi and recalled their bail.

Their counsel, Farooq H. Naek, contended that his clients were ready to appear before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Rawalpindi, but they were apprehensive of their imminent arrest following their case transfer and therefore, pleaded for protective/transitory bail.

After a preliminary hearing, a two-judge SHC bench headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh granted protective/transitory bail to the siblings against a surety bond of Rs1 million each and directed them to surrender before the trial court till March 29.

Without dilating upon the merits of the case, the bench said that the protective/transitory bail was granted to the petitioners to enable them to appear before the accountability court concerned. This order will cease to have its effect on March 29, it added.

Ex-president granted protective bail in another matter

The SHC also allowed another petition of PPP co-chairman seeking bail after NAB sent him a call-up notice asking to appear on March 20 regarding an inquiry into the alleged misappropriation of loans in the Park Lane case.

Mr Zardari also challenged a call-up notice issued by NAB on March 14 asking him to appear before a combined investigation team of NAB on March 20 in Islamabad and pleaded for protective bail.

NAB in its notice maintained that the investigation conducted so far revealed that Park Lane Estates obtained fraudulent loan of Rs1.5 billion through a front company Parthenon Private Limited from National Bank of Pakistan and Summit Bank and restructured it to the tune of Rs2.8 billion, adding that Mr Zardari has been a shareholder and director of Park Lane.

Mr Naek argued that the petitioner had nothing to do with the alleged acts of corruption and was ready to appear before the combined investigation team as and when called by the court concerned since he has been summoned to appear in Islamabad NAB.

The bench granted 10-day protective/transitory bail to the petitioner against a surety bond of Rs1 million to enable him to appear before the combined investigation team of NAB or the court concerned having jurisdiction.

Notices issued on plea against case transfer

Earlier in the day, the same bench issued notices to the NAB chairman and others till March 26 on a set of petitions challenging the order of a banking court regarding the transfer of the fake accounts case to an accountability court in Rawalpindi for trial.

Mr Zardari, his sister, the detained chairman of Omni Group Anver Majeed and his sons had filed criminal revision applications before the SHC against the March 15 order of the banking court.

Their counsel had argued that the order of the banking court was passed without knowing the fact that all essential persons, documents and witnesses were within the jurisdiction of the court in Karachi and the transfer of the case to Rawalpindi would cause great inconvenience to the accused persons and witnesses.

While naming the NAB chairman and the judge of the banking court as respondents, the lawyers asked the court to declare the order of the trial court order illegal, unlawful and without jurisdiction. The applicants also asked the court to suspend the operation of the order.

However, the bench refused to issue any restraining order or suspend the operation of the order of the banking court.

It issued notices to the respondents asking them to file comments by March 26.

The refusal by the SHC to issue a restraining order and fearing their possible arrest, Mr Zardari and his sister again approached the SHC for protective/transitory bail.

The Supreme Court had taken a suo motu notice and constituted a joint investigation team to probe the matter. In January, the apex court had referred the JIT report to NAB to launch its probe independently and complete it within two months.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019