LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday granted post-arrest bail to former principal secretary to the PM Fawad Hassan Fawad in a reference of illegal assets filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Mr Fawad served on different posts in the federal and Punjab governments of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) till NAB arrested him on July 5, 2018, initially in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing scam. He remained behind bars for almost 19 months.
His was the second high-profile arrest from among senior bureaucrats believed to have close association with the previous PML-N government as former director general of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema was the first to be arrested by NAB on Feb 21, 2018, in the same housing scheme scam.
The bureaucrat who was believed to have close ties with PML-N remained behind bars for almost 19 months
Mr Cheema is still behind bars and his bail petitions in multiple cases are pending adjudication before the LHC.
A two-judge bench had on Feb 14, 2019, granted bail to Mr Fawad and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif in the housing scheme case. However, Mr Fawad was denied bail in the assets case.
NAB moved the Supreme Court against the bail given to both in the Ashiana case while Mr Fawad also approached the apex court against denial of bail in the assets beyond means case.
However, NAB withdrew its petitions after it failed to convince the SC while Mr Fawad also withdrew his petition and approached the LHC on fresh grounds.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, Mr Fawad’s counsel Azam Nazir Tarar argued before the bench that the prosecution had not yet established its allegations before the trial court. Furthermore, he said the trial had been delayed unnecessarily and the petitioner had not been indicted so far.
The counsel pointed out that the trial court had also been without a presiding officer since September last year.
A NAB prosecutor argued that the prosecution had no role in the unavailability of the presiding judge.
However, he replied in the negative when the bench asked him whether NAB wrote any letter to the law ministry or the LHC chief justice for the appointment of the presiding judge.
Advocate Tarar further argued that the prosecution backtracked on its stance with respect to the amount of alleged assets owned by the petitioner.
He said NAB initially claimed that a plaza in Rawalpindi allegedly owned by the petitioner was worth Rs5 billion and now it claimed in the reference that the value of whole assets of the petitioner’s family was Rs1.8bn.
He argued that the petitioner owned not a single property and NAB termed the properties of his wife and brother benami. He said there were visible flaws in the investigation.
In response to a court query, the counsel said NAB never arrested other family members of the petitioner nominated as suspects in the reference.
The prosecutor said the SC had not directed the petitioner to approach the high court for bail on fresh grounds.
The counsel, however, said the apex court had refused to entertain fresh evidence relating to bank accounts and asked the petitioner to approach the LHC instead.
He also stated that the petitioner reached superannuation last week and he was supposed to vacate possession of the official residence along with his family.
After hearing the arguments, the bench comprising Justice Tariq Abbasi and Justice Chaudhry Mushtaq Ahmad granted Mr Fawad bail subject to surety bonds of Rs10 million.
Sources in NAB said the bail granting decision will be challenged before the Supreme Court. They said the NAB chairman had already directed the team concerned to assail the decision.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2020