ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwart Syed Khurshid Shah finally won his freedom on Thursday when the Supreme Court ordered his release on bail after almost two years of incarceration, but with a condition that his name will remain on the no-fly list.

A two-judge bench, consisting of Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, observed that an accountability court seized with the corruption reference against Khurshid Shah would decide his fate by determining whether to keep his name in the Exit Control List (ECL) or not.

Khurshid Shah will have to furnish a bail bond of Rs10 million.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had arrested the PPP leader on Aug 18, 2019, in Islamabad after he arrived here to attend a session of the National Assembly. NAB charged him with purchasing 574 acres of land in 2005 for Rs179 million — an amount described by the agency as “well beyond his known sources of income”.

The Sindh High Court had dismissed his bail petition twice.

Soon after television channels broke the news, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to congratulate him. “Heartiest congratulations to senior PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah on his bail. It is about time the drama of the so-called accountability based on political revenge and baseless allegations is wound up. Hope Shah Sahib will play his full role in the country’s politics,” the tweet said.

Nayyar Bukhari, a former Senate chairman, said Khurshid Shah was arrested by NAB on “fabricated charges”, adding that PPP was the only political party in the country whose members never “ditch the nation in its hour of need”.

Former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the authorities had “wronged the nation by keeping a dedicated political worker like Khurshid Shah behind bars for so long”. He said he was confident that the “government’s days are numbered”.

Senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, who represented Khurshid Shah, argued that the corruption case against his client was based purely on conjecture. It can be disproved with the help of documents like the registered sale deeds and notifications of stamp duty collectors. He argued that the entire case against his client was based on exaggerated estimates by NAB backed by no supporting evidence.

“The SHC judges proceeded against the politician [Khurshid Shah] by describing him as the richest man in Sindh as if that was in itself an offence,” Makhdoom Ali Khan said.

He recalled that NAB had investigated the PPP leader from 2001 to 2012. He was exonerated by NAB and the investigation against him finally closed in 2014.

The present case started against him as an inquiry when he received a call-up notice. He sought time as he was busy in an important National Assembly session. But the bureau arrested him in Islamabad and took him to Sukkur.

It was only after his arrest that NAB started an investigation and filed a reference against him three months after arrest.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021

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