ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday observed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has challenged the acquittal of former president Asif Ali Zardari without obtaining the original record of the case, and directed its prosecutor general to review the pending appeals to ascertain whether they are proceedable or otherwise.
A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq was hearing the NAB’s appeal against the acquittal of Mr Zardari in the Ursus tractor reference. An accountability court had acquitted Mr Zardari in the reference in 2014.
The reference pertains to alleged misappropriation of funds in the purchase of 5,900 Russian and Polish tractors at a cost of Rs150,000 each for the Awami Tractor Scheme. Mr Zardari was one of the main suspects along with his wife, slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. However, her name was later removed from the reference. According to the charge-sheet, the then government had launched the scheme in 1994 for import of tractors.
The tractor purchase deal allegedly caused a loss of Rs268.3 million to the Agriculture Development Bank of Pakistan — now called Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited — and Rs1.67 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan.
NAB Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzaib Khan Bharwana informed the bench that the original record of the reference had gone missing.
The court noted that it took the NAB seven years to realise that the appeals were filed without possessing the original record, and asked how it happened and warned of penalising the bureau for wasting the court’s time.
Bharwana told the court the record had gone missing while it was being transported from Lahore High Court to the Supreme Court.
Justice Minallah pointed out that the accountability court had acquitted the former president of the charges on merit, adding that it strengthened the perception that the NAB’s references were politically motivated.
“The NAB held others accountable but there is no mechanism of the bureau’s accountability,” the chief justice remarked.
“Do you know how the NAB’s actions adversely affected the national economy?” he asked the prosecutor. Besides, it also defames a citizen of Pakistan by filing references on flimsy reasons, he remarked.
The court issued directions to the NAB prosecutor general to examine the pending appeals and references and only those be kept in courts where the prosecution believed sufficient evidence was available to connect the suspect with the allegations.
Further hearing in the case was adjourned till a date to be fixed by the registrar’s office.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2021