IHC stays Zardari’s indictment in suspicious transactions case

Published October 28, 2021
A file photo of  former president Asif Ali Zardari. ─ DawnNewsTV/File
A file photo of former president Asif Ali Zardari. ─ DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday stopped the accountability court from framing charges against former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Rs8.3 billion suspicious transactions case.

The IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq issued a stay order against indictment of the accused persons in the case.

The accountability court was originally scheduled to indict Mr Zardari and other accused in the said reference on Thursday (today).

Ex-president’s lawyer says NAB reference is self-contradictory

Counsel for Mr Zardari Advocate Farooq H. Naek argued before the IHC that reference of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was self-contradictory and the bureau had charged the former president without any tangible evidence.

He said the case was based on private transactions of two private parties and Mr Zardari had nothing to do with it. The PPP leader purchased some properties in a legitimate manner and it was a private business deal, Mr Naek added.

NAB had no jurisdiction to implead the former president in the case and after the recent promulgation of the presidential ordinance on NAB law, the bureau could not proceed in matters related to private transactions, he contended.

The bench issued a notice to NAB for Nov 4 and issued a stay order in the matter till then.

NAB has accused Mr Zardari of constructing his palatial house in Clifton, Karachi, with ill-gotten money. As per the reference, Mushtaq Ahmed had provided Rs150 million for construction of the house.

The NAB reference said Mr Zardari could not provide proof of his claim that he had purchased the house through legal means.

According to the reference, an illegal transaction of Rs8.3bn was carried out via Mushtaq Ahmed’s bank account with the money paid to Bahria Town.

The accused, Mushtaq Ahmed, worked as a government employee in the President House from 2009 to 2013. He was recruited as a stenographer on the recommendation of Senator Rukhsana Bangash.

A third accused in the case, Zain Malik — the son-in-law of Bahria Town’s owner Malik Riaz — has already signed a plea bargain deal with NAB and deposited around Rs9bn into the national exchequer.

The same bench took up seven identical petitions of former bureaucrats and top officials of autonomous bodies who are seeking acquittal in NAB references.

The court expressed displeasure over the conduct of NAB prosecutor and summoned the bureau’s Prosecutor General Syed Asghar Ali Haider.

The petitioners, including former Sindh chief minister Liaqat Ali Jatoi, federal secretary Ismail Qureshi, and former chief executive officer of Universal Service Fund Ashar Siddiqui, sought acquittal under the Presidential Ordinance that curtailed the jurisdiction of NAB and excluded federal and provincial cabinets and government machinery from the ambit of the anti-graft watchdog.

The court observed that NAB was unnecessarily harassing government functionaries by dragging them in corruption references.

Further hearing in the matter was adjourned until Nov 30.

Meanwhile, the IHC bench took up the petition of Malik Ahmed Khan, the CEO of Public-Private Partnership Authority, who has challenged the ongoing NAB inquiry against his appointment.

When the bench took up the petition, NAB’s counsel told the court the NAB chairman had not issued any arrest warrant against the accused yet.

The bench expressed displeasure over NAB’s response and termed it another “pick and choose case”.

“It is questionable as to why NAB is proceeding against a person appointed by the competent authority while sparing those behind the said induction,” remarked Justice Minallah.

The court asked NAB to submit a report on the matter and adjourned the hearing.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2021

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