ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to former railways minister and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) stalwart Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique in the Paragon City corruption case. They were asked to deposit surety bonds of Rs3 million each.
A two-judge SC bench headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar had taken up a plea of the Khawaja brothers against the rejection of their post-arrest bail petitions by the Lahore High Court.
During the hearing, Justice Baqar observed that the way the corruption reference was handled reflected that either the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) lacked the capacity to properly investigate or its intentions were doubtful.
Senior counsel Amjad Pervez, representing the Khawaja brothers, argued before the Supreme Court that his clients had been behind bars for the last 16 months after they were arrested by NAB on July 18, 2018, and had always cooperated with the bureau by appearing whenever called and providing documents whenever asked for.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi demands immediate resignation of NAB chairman
The corruption reference against them was filed in an accountability court on May 30 last year after a delay of six months, whereas they were formally charged with corruption on Sept 4, 2019, the counsel said. So far only five of the 122 witness accounts had been recorded against his clients, the counsel said, adding that the fifth testimony was recorded by the one who turned approver in the case.
NAB accused the Khawaja brothers of establishing a housing project by acting as benamidars in the name of Air Avenue. The project was later converted into a new housing scheme namely Paragon City which, as per NAB, was an illegal society and not approved by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA). The bureau also accused the two brothers of receiving monetary benefits of Rs58 million and Rs39m respectively from the housing society through proxy firms under the garb of consultancy services.
NAB alleged that the Khawaja brothers had embezzled funds of the housing society for personal gains and collected heavy amounts despite clear directives from the LDA that the society was illegal.
Soon after the court proceedings, Saad Rafique, while talking to the media, alleged that the present government had received policy and guidelines to contain novel coronavirus from the National Security Committee as they did not even have their own policy. He said the government believed that it would take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and would get some benefits from the International Monetary Fund. “The entire economic policy of the government revolves around such daydreaming,” he added.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, meanwhile, demanded immediate resignation of the NAB chairman, asking if the anti-graft watchdog could return the days the Khawaja brothers had spent in jail.
“We have repeatedly suggested that the country cannot be run effectively until NAB is not closed down,” the former premier said, adding that the institution of NAB was being used for arms-twisting of politicians.
Senior PML-N leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif alleged that the grant of bails, one by one, by different superior courts established that the bureau was being used only for witch-hunt and to gag the opponents’ voice of dissent.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020