KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Wednesday dismissed the bail petitions of provincial assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and 10 others in a corruption reference.
However, the SHC allowed the bail petitions of Mr Durrani’s wife, three daughters, a son and two others in the same reference.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Nadeem Akhtar and Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro pronounced the order after hearing both sides as the Supreme Court had remanded the bail matter back to the SHC for fresh hearing.
Besides Mr Durrani, the bench also dismissed the bail petitions of his then private secretary Zulfiqar Ali Dahar, his wife Shamshad Khatoon and drivers, gunmen as well as servants of the provincial assembly speaker.
SHC grants bail to Siraj Durrani’s wife, three daughters and son
NAB had filed a reference against Mr Durrani, his brother Agha Masihuddin Khan, wife, son, daughters as well as 13 others before an accountability court in Karachi in 2019 for allegedly accumulating assets worth over Rs1.61 billion through illegal means.
The order, authored by Justice Kalhoro, said that there was a difference of Rs1.61bn between the declared income and assets and actual income and belongings of the main accused after deducting outlay, which included money spent by him and his family on travels abroad.
It noted that the lawyer for the provincial assembly speaker did not seriously dispute the ownership of such assets, bank lockers etc, and contended that the estimation made by NAB to determine value of his assets was lopsided and not supported by documents and his inheritance, agricultural income from 3,500 acres and possessions since 1985.
However, the bench said it found the arguments factually incorrect as the reference specially alluded in addition to his other incomes from assorted sources to his agricultural income specifically while “no evidence qua size of the agricultural land or income from it has been placed on record”.
The order further said in rebuttal to the figure disclosed by prosecution witnesses, sellers and purchasers, to have either paid or received to or from main accused, evaluation by the experts of value of items retrieved from bank lockers and estimation of value of properties held by his benamidars and family members, “nothing tangible had been offered to persuade us to hold that the textual and oral evidence against him is not sufficient to believe his involvement in the offence”, it added.
“His counsel in arguments offered nothing tangible to account of unaccounted wealth Agha Siraj Durrani has been prima facie found in possession of and a big house in a posh area (DHA) of Karachi in which he with his family, without an apparent title, has been residing since 2011,” the order said.
It observed that other petitioners shown as benamidars had been found affiliated with the main accused and also active participation in buying and selling properties at his behest was perceptible from the material available on record.
About the family members of the speaker, the bench noted that they have been identified as benamidars owners of certain properties, which said to have been declared undervalued and as per NAB the main accused provided money for such properties earned from corruption.
“However, allegation to provide finance for purchase of such properties is against him and not his family members,” the order said, adding that they neither held any public office nor there was allegation that they were able to generate resources and purchased properties by using the office of the main accused.
A list of moveable and immovable properties attached with the order said that the main accused and his family members held 27 properties while seven benami properties owned or disposed of by the provincial assembly speaker.
NAB had arrested the provincial assembly speaker in Feb 2019 in a hotel in Islamabad for investigation and a few months later filed a reference against him, his brother Agha Masihuddin Khan and other family members, including his wife, sons and daughters, as well as 13 others before an accountability court in Karachi for allegedly accumulating assets worth over Rs1.61bn through illegal means.
In December 2019, a division bench of the SHC had granted post-arrest bail to Speaker Durrani and in February 2020 it had also confirmed pre-arrest bail of some other suspects in the same reference.
However, NAB had challenged the two orders of the SHC before the Supreme Court and in March the apex court had set aside the orders and remanded the matter back to the SHC with direction for fresh hearing and decision on the bail on merit and ruled that in the meantime the suspects would remain on bail.
The apex court had observed that the bail petitions in NAB matters should be heard and decided by senior division benches of the SHC and directed to decide the matter in question within two months.
Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2021