NAB mulls withdrawing appeal against Zardari’s acquittal in ARY Gold reference

Published June 14, 2022
A file photo of former president Asif Ali Zardari. ─ DawnNewsTV/File
A file photo of former president Asif Ali Zardari. ─ DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor on Monday hinted at withdrawing appeal against the acquittal of former president Asif Ali Zardari by an accountability court in the ARY Gold reference.

NAB’s Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Khan Bharwana, who had earlier requested the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to either dispose of the appeal or adjourn the hearing till the retrieval of original record, sought its permission to reconstruct the record.

Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, a member of an IHC division bench headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah, questioned admissibility of the record and asked if it would be acceptable by the counsel for the former president.

Mr Bharwana told the court that he had suggested withdrawal of the appeal against Mr Zardari.

Bureau’s additional prosecutor general says anti-graft watchdog dysfunctional in absence of chairman

The National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) empowers the NAB prosecutor general to withdraw a case from any court at any stage.

The additional prosecutor general, however, said since the new NAB chairman had not yet been appointed, the bureau was practically dysfunctional at present.

The court adjourned further hearing till September 20.

The Islamabad accountability court had in December 2014 acquitted Mr Zardari in the ARY Gold reference.

According to the reference, then prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Mr Zardari, retired Brig Aslam Hayat Qureshi and Salman Farooqi had allegedly allowed ARY owner Haji Abdul Razzaq to import gold and silver duty-free between 1995 and 1997, inflicting billions of rupees of loss to the national exchequer.

NAB had challenged the acquittal of the former president in the reference in 2015 and the appeal had been pending before the IHC since then.

Earlier last year, the anti-graft watchdog had informed the IHC that records related to four old references filed against Mr Zardari in the 1990s were missing.

The original record in the assets reference against the former president had reportedly gone missing from the custody of an accountability court, besides the original case record of two other references — SGS and Cotecna — in which he had also been acquitted.

NAB had presented an affidavit before the Rawalpindi accountability court in the assets reference, saying the bureau had provided the original case record to the court some 15 years ago, which had not been returned to the bureau.

NAB officials claimed that the bureau’s legal team had shown the court its own letter which it had received when the original record was submitted to the court.

Interestingly, the investigation officer in the ARY corruption reference disowned the evidence when he recorded his statement before the accountability court which, while acquitting Mr Zardari, noted this aspect as well.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2022

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