SUKKUR: Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah and 17 co-accused, including his two wives, two sons, two nephews, contractors and alleged frontmen, pleaded not guilty to charges of accumulating assets beyond known sources of income when accountability court judge formally indicted them on Monday in a reference filed by National Accountability Bureau.

The reference was read out in the presence of Khursheed Shah’s counsel Mukesh Kumar and NAB prosecutor Malik Zubair to all the accused — Khursheed Shah, his wives Talat Bibi and Gul Jan Bibi, his sons MPA Farrukh Shah and Zeerak Shah, his nephews provincial minister Syed Awais Qadir Shah and Syed Junaid Qadir Shah, contractors Akram Pathan, Saqib Awan, Tufail Pathan and others — and then judge Fareed Anwar Qazi announced the indictment.

According to the reference, Khursheed Shah built a bungalow on an encroached piece of land which was originally reserved for a mosque and school, transferred millions of rupees through benami accounts and amassed assets of more than Rs1.23 billion beyond his known sources of income in addition to other irregularities.

After Khursheed Shah and other co-accused pleaded not guilty to all charges, the court adjourned hearing of the case to Dec 11 and also summoned 43 witnesses against the accused to appear in court.

The NAB had arrested Mr Shah on Sept 18, 2019, in Banigala locality in Islamabad and filed a reference against him on Sept 19.

During the course of the hearings Shah reported ill and the court allowed him to get admitted to NICVD hospital Sukkur where he had been under treatment for cardiac diseases for 13 months after the Sindh government declared the second floor of the hospital as jail ward.

NAB has prepared the second additional supplementary reference against Khursheed Shah and sent it to the bureau’s chairman to seek his approval. It is expected to be filed in the court on next date of hearing of the case.

But in a pre-emptive move, Mr Shah has already challenged it in the Sukkur bench of the Sindh High Court through his lawyers Mian Raza Rabbani and Mukesh Kumar. The court is scheduled to hear it on Dec 2.

In a related development, a senior lawyer Mohammad Ali Shah had filed a petition in the SHC, raising objections to Khursheed Shah’s continuous stay on the pretext of treatment at NICVD for over a year. The petition will be heard on Dec 8.

Meanwhile, talking to media persons outside the court, Khursheed Shah claimed that NAB had failed to prove charges against him and went on to say that he did not illegally take even an aspirin pill when he was minister in provincial and federal governments.

He said that when he held portfolio of federal minister for religious affairs he did not use government funds to perform Haj which was his legal right.

About current political storm in the country, Mr Shah said that coronavirus existed in other countries as well but claimed they had not banned public meetings. The government itself wanted to worsen conditions, he said.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020

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