ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Tuesday exempted former president Asif Ali Zardari from personal appearance in the Park Lane reference due to his ailment, while deciding to frame charges against the suspects, including his sister Faryal Talpur, in the case on Jan 22.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, in the light of recently promulgated presidential ordinance on the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law, challenged his indictment in the rental power projects reference.
When Judge Azam Khan of the accountability court resumed proceedings in the Park Lane reference, an offshoot of the fake bank accounts case, the counsel for the ex-president submitted an application seeking exemption of his client from personal attendance due to his ailment. The court granted the request and exempted Mr Zardari, while Ms Talpur appeared before the court.
The court asked investigation officer if the copies of the reference had been distributed among all the suspects. He said NAB had included some more suspects in the supplementary reference of Park Lane case. He said directors of Omni Group, Awar Majeed, Abdul Ghani Majeed, Hussain Lawai, Nimar Majeed and others had also been included in the reference. Four suspects had already left the country and were somewhere in Canada and the United Kingdom, he said, claiming that efforts were being made to arrest them with the help of Interpol.
Ex-premier challenges his indictment in NAB reference
The court adjourned further hearing till Jan 22 with a directive for the prosecution to ensure the presence of all accused persons to enable the court to frame charges against them.
Former PM Ashraf challenged his indictment in the Gulf and Reshma rental power projects reference, citing provisions of the recent amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had through a presidential ordinance changed the definition of misuse of authority. The amendment to Section 9 (a)(vi) of the NAO states: “Nothing shall be construed as misuse of authority by a holder of public office unless there is corroborative evidence of accumulation of any monetary benefit or asset which is disproportionate to his known sources of income or which cannot be reasonably accounted for.”
Raja Pervez Ashraf is accused of misusing his authority during his tenure as minister for water and power to get approval from the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet for an increase in the down-payment to the rental power companies from seven to 14 per cent, amounting to about Rs22 billion.
The counsel for Mr Ashraf challenged his client’s indictment, arguing that he could not be tried for misuse of authority after the recent amendment to the NAB law as the investigation did not establish any financial gain.
However, the NAB prosecutor argued said that Mr Ashraf could not claim the benefit of the recently promulgated law because there was no change in Section 10-B of the NAO specifying the punishment for misuse of authority.
The accountability judge asked the counsel for the former premier to submit a written application in this regard and said that NAB’s stance would be heard after hearing the arguments of the suspects.
The court adjourned further hearing till Jan 23.
In the Roshan Sindh Programme case against former minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, the accountability court directed him to cooperate with NAB and respond to the questionnaire.
The former minister had challenged the investigation against him in the case pertaining to installation of solar lights in the province.
Advocate Shah Khawar informed the court that the anti-graft watchdog in a notice had summoned Mr Memon on Jan 10. He argued that NAB could not probe the ex-minister in the case in the light of presidential ordinance on NAB law and requested the court to set aside the notice.
However, the NAB prosecutor told the court that the bureau had handed over a questionnaire to the suspect and sought information about his assets and sources of income.
The court asked Mr Memon to cooperate with the investigation agency and respond to the questionnaire. Further hearing was adjourned till Jan 20.
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2020