LAHORE: An accountability court on Wednesday dismissed acquittal applications of former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq and his brother former provincial minister Khwaja Salman Rafiq in the Paragon City scam.

Announcing a short order, presiding judge Jawadul Hassan said the applications were not maintainable and directed the prosecution to present its witnesses on the next hearing.

The Khwaja brothers were present in the court when the judge announced the decision reserved two days ago.

In the applications, the lawyers of the duo had questioned the jurisdiction of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file reference against them.

The main point they based their argument on was that the disputes regarding a private business did not fall within the NAB jurisdiction. They said there was no allegation of corruption or misusing national exchequer against the petitioners being public office-holders.

The counsel pleaded that the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan was the competent forum to look into such matters under Companies Act 2017. They had asked the court to set aside the indictment of the petitioners and acquit them of the charges.

The NAB opposed the applications as being not competent after indictment of the suspects. Its prosecutor argued that the Supreme Court ruled in a number of judgments that the trial court could not entertain such appeals after the indictment.

The bureau in the reference alleged that the Khwajas had wrongfully gained Rs18.2 million approximately from M/s Paragon City (pvt) Limited in their bank accounts.

It said 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. It said the suspects along with other accomplices cheated public at large and obtained illegal financial benefits from the funds of the society.

Talking to the media, Saad announced challenging the decision before the LHC. He hoped they will definitely get justice someday.

Both brothers were arrested by the NAB on Dec 11, 2018, after the high court dismissed their pre-arrest bail petitions as withdrawn. They remained in the bureau’s custody till Feb 2, 2019, before the trial court sent them to jail on judicial remand. They again moved the LHC for post-arrest bail but the same was denied.

Chunian suspect: An anti-terrorism court on Wednesday extended physical remand of suspected rapist-cum-killer of several minor boys of Chunian.

The police produced the suspect before the court amid strict security.

Presiding judge Abdul Qayum Khan asked the suspect, Shahzad, as if he was beaten by police during custody.

The suspect responded in negative and requested the court to order the police to maintain same conduct with him.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor General Abdul Rauf Wattoo told the court that DNA of the suspect had also been matched with two more victims. He said further custody of the suspect was required for investigation.

The judge allowed the request and extended physical remand of the suspect for another 14 days.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019