Bilawal’s first appearance before NAB today

Updated March 20, 2019

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PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari decided to appear before NAB after receiving a notice from the bureau, his spokesperson says. — Reuters/File
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari decided to appear before NAB after receiving a notice from the bureau, his spokesperson says. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is set to appear before the National Accountability Bureau for the first time here on Wednesday (today) in connection with an inquiry into a loan allegedly obtained by a company owned by his father Asif Ali Zardari as the party has directed its workers to reach the NAB office “to express solidarity” with the PPP chief.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a spokesman for the PPP chairman, while talking to Dawn on Tuesday, confirmed that Mr Bhutto-Zardari had decided to appear before NAB after receiving a notice from the bureau on March 15. He said former Senate chairman and law minister Farooq H. Naek would be representing the PPP chairman in the case.

Earlier, NAB had summoned both Mr Zardari and his son Bilawal to appear before it in Rawalpindi on Dec 13 last year in connection with an inquiry into alleged purchase and demarcation of a land in Islamabad by a company — Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Limited. However, only Mr Zardari had appeared before NAB, whereas Mr Bhutto-Zardari was represented by his lawyer.

PPP directs party workers to reach Islamabad to ‘express solidarity’ with party chairman

Mr Khokhar, however, said Mr Bhutto-Zardari had been summoned by NAB in connection with an inquiry into the loan allegedly obtained by the Park Lane firm. He claimed that Mr Bhutto-Zardari had become a minor shareholder of Park Lane Limited when he was only one year old. The company, he said, had been purchased by Mr Zardari on July 31, 1989. He said Mr Zardari had resigned from the directorship of this company when he assumed the office of the president of Pakistan in 2008. He said Mr Bhutto-Zardari had never served as a director and as a shareholder he had no involvement in the day-to-day affairs of the company.

Mr Khokhar said that no public money was involved in the matter and it was a private loan given by a private bank to a private company. Moreover, he claimed that the loan had never been defaulted upon and that it had been obtained by a company named Parthenon which had a joint venture with Park Lane Limited. He said the loan had been obtained by a company in which Mr Zardari and his son had no role at all.

Moreover, the spokesman claimed that the particular transaction about which the PPP chairman was being questioned pertained to a time period when he was not even in Pakistan and was studying abroad.

Speaking at a news conference earlier in the day in Islamabad, PPP’s central secretary general Nayyar Bokhari and Punjab secretary general Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed lashed out at NAB, saying that the recent act of “committing suicide” by retired Brig Asad Munir allegedly due to the humiliation he had been facing at the hands of NAB had raised a number of questions on the functioning of the bureau.

Mr Bokhari also expressed concern over the transfer of the fake bank accounts case against Asif Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur from Karachi to Rawalpindi and contended that the law clearly stated that trial should be held at a place where a crime had been committed.

He said the PPP leadership had decided that Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur and Mr Bhutto-Zardari would appear before NAB and courts to defend themselves and to respond to the queries verbally as well as in writing. He was of the view that the case against Mr Zardari and Ms Talpur should have been tried in banking courts.

Demanding that the NAB chief be made accountable, he claimed that the bureau had no concrete evidence in any case against the PPP leadership.

Mr Bokhari alleged that there was a question mark over the impartiality of NAB Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal. He recalled that the NAB chairman had met Prime Minister Imran Khan despite the fact that the latter was also an accused in a corruption reference.

He said the party workers would gather outside the NAB office on Wednesday “to express solidarity with the innocent party chairman”.

The PPP leaders also announced that the party would formally register a case against Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed for allegedly hurling threats at the party chairman.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019