Khwaja brothers’ indictment put off over illegible reference copies

Updated August 21, 2019

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During the previous hearing, an accountability court had delayed the indictment due to absence of Khwaja Saad. — AFP/File
During the previous hearing, an accountability court had delayed the indictment due to absence of Khwaja Saad. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The indictment of former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique and his brother former provincial minister Khwaja Salman Rafique in the Paragon City scam was once again delayed on Tuesday till the first week of next month due to non-provision of readable copies of the reference to the suspects by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

During the previous hearing, an accountability court had delayed the indictment due to absence of Khwaja Saad as he was in Islamabad to attend a joint session of parliament. Presiding Judge Jawadul Hassan had expressed serious dismay over the absence and questioned the practice of issuing production orders of under-trial parliamentarians by the speaker without permission from the court concerned.

At the outset of Tuesday’s hearing, the judge was told that the suspects were present in the court and the prosecution was ready for framing charges on them. However, defence counsel Amjad Pervez told the court that the copies of the reference and related documents supplied to the suspects were not readable. He said the court could not indict the suspects unless readable copies of the case documents were provided to the suspects by the NAB.

At this the judge directed a prosecutor to supply clear documents of the reference to the suspects without any delay. He regretted that the indictment of the suspects had been delayed on one pretext or the other. The judge fixed Sept 4 for the indictment and adjourned hearing.

The NAB alleged that the Khwaja brothers through their “benamidars” and with the abetment of former MPA Qaiser Amin Butt and Nadeem Zia established a housing project in the name of Air Avenue. The suspects along with other accomplices cheated the public and obtained illegal financial benefits from the funds of the illegal society, it added.

The bureau had arrested the Khwaja brothers on Dec 11, 2018 after the Lahore High Court denied them further pre-arrest bail. They remained in the bureau’s custody till Feb 2 when the trial court sent them to jail on judicial remand. Their bail petitions had been dismissed by a two-judge bench of the high court.

In a brief conversation with the media, Saad Rafique lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf for, what he believed, a miserably unsuccessful first year in government.

He said the first year of the government ‘rewarded’ the nation with hollow promises, vindictive actions, incapability, unemployment and inflation.

“The government has turned Pakistan into a prison,” Mr Saad said referring to the arrests of all major opposition leaders in alleged corruption cases.

He was of the view that a government busy in weakening its own country could not fight for Kashmir on the international level. “The enemy (India) is standing at our door and the government is busy in sending political rivals to jail,” he lamented. He also condemned curbs on the media.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019