An Islamabad accountability court on Wednesday granted PTI Chairman Imran Khan bail in the Al-Qadir Trust case till June 19 against surety bonds worth Rs500,000.
The PTI chief arrived at the Federal Judicial Complex shortly after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed him to approach a relevant accountability court within three working days.
The Al-Qadir Trust case alleges that the PTI chief and his wife, Bushra Bibi, obtained billions of rupees and land worth hundreds of kanals from a real estate firm for legalising Rs50 billion that was identified and returned to the country by the UK during the previous PTI government.
Imran was whisked away from the IHC premises by paramilitary forces on May 9, leading to violent protests across the country. The PTI chief had immediately approached the IHC for release but it had declared his arrest legal.
Imran had then approached the Supreme Court, which on May 11, termed his arrest “invalid and unlawful” and directed him to appear before the IHC the next day.
Subsequently, the IHC had granted Imran bail in the case for two weeks and stopped authorities from arresting the PTI chief till May 17 in any case registered in Islamabad after May 9.
On May 17, the IHC had extended its order to prevent Imran’s arrest in cases filed against him after May 9 until May 31.
Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir presided over the hearing today. It was attended by Imran, his lawyer Khawaja Harris and NAB Prosecutor Sohail Arif.
As the proceeding commenced, the judge asked Harris about the IHC’s order. The lawyer replied that the high court had instructed Imran to appear before a relevant accountability court within three days.
“So you filed a petition today?” Judge Bashir inquired.
“We had prepared a petition beforehand and decided to file it in case the need arises,” Harris responded and requested the court to grant Imran bail till June 17 as he had to appear before an anti-terrorism court in the capital on the same day.
Here, NAB’s Arif requested the court to fix another day as June 17 was falling on a Saturday. “Record rooms are closed on Saturday,” he said.
Subsequently, the judge extended the PTI chief’s bail till June 19 against surety bonds worth Rs500,000.
IHC directs Imran to approach accountability court within three days
Earlier today, the IHC also extended Imran’s in the Al-Qadir Trust case for three days and directed him to approach the relevant accountability court within the same time.
The order was issued by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz.
Imran arrived at the court in a bullet-poof vehicle surrounded by a huge contingent of police. A video shared on PTI’s official Twitter account showed the ex-premier entering the IHC as his security personnel held up bulletproof shields.
During the hearing, Harris decried that his client was appearing before multiple courts in Islamabad which was leading to a number of security issues.
“Apparently, millions of rupees are spent in the name of security on the petitioner’s arrival to court,” the lawyer said.
At that Justice Aurangzeb asked if Imran had joined NAB’s investigation into the case to which Harris replied in the affirmative. Subsequently, the court directed the PTI chief to approach a relevant accountability court within three working days. It also extended Imran’s protective bail in the case for three days.
Imran’s bail extended in two other cases
The IHC also heard two more petitions filed by the PTI chief pertaining to the violation of Section 144 and a bar on Islamabad police for arresting him in any case registered after May 9.
The pleas were heard by a bench comprising Justice Aurangzeb and Justice Aurangzeb Alamgir. The hearing was attended by Imran, his counsel Ali Gohar and Additional Attorney General Munawwar Iqbal.
“A number of cases have already been decided,” Justice Aurangzeb said at the outset of the hearing. He also noted that every day a new case was brought to court.
For his part, Imran’s lawyer said that over 150 cases were registered against his client “which means that he has to appear for investigation in every case”.
Subsequently, the court extended Imran’s protective bail on both petitions for 10 days and restrained the police from arresting him in any case lodged within the jurisdiction of Islamabad after May 9.
At one point during the hearing, PTI lawyer Sher Afzal requested the court to allow him present arguments on cases registered at the F-8 Katcheri in the IHC.
“The petitioner has security concerns, he can’t appear in the F-8 Katcheri,” he argued. “A majority of the cases have been registered there but appearing before that court is not possible.”
Afzal further requested that the case fixed at F-8 Katcheri be moved to the Federal Judicial Complex. The plea was accepted by the court.
NAB says Bushra Bibi’s arrest not needed
Meanwhile, an Islamabad accountability court declared the bail plea of Imran’s wife Bushra Bibi in the Al Qadir Trust case as “infructuous” after NAB Investigation Officer Mian Umer Nadeem said her arrest was “not needed”.
Judge Mohammad Bashir presided over the hearing. Bushra Bibi, her counsel Khawaja Harris and NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi appeared in court.
At the outset of the hearing, Abbasi said, “Imran issued a statement on May 13, where he used inappropriate language for NAB, the chairman and spread false propaganda against the accountability watchdog.”
He argued that the PTI chief made statements with the ill-intention of pressuring the NAB. “We never raided or attacked Imran’s Zaman Park residence, neither did we ever issue arrest warrants for his wife,” the prosecutor general said.
He asserted that the bureau had no “personal vendetta” against anyone. Reiterating that the NAB had not issued her arrest warrants, he said, “When warrants aren’t even there, the bail plea may be dismissed.”
Here, Advocate Harris said, “If we have to listen to how virtuous the NAB is, then we will start from the Supreme Court’s order.
“Not even a single summons notice was sent by the NAB, yet the inquiry was turned into an investigation,” he added.
The counsel then told the court that Bushra Bibi had gone to the NAB office with Imran on the court’s order but the bureau had instead only called Imran inside and told Bushra Bibi that it was “not her time” for investigation.
“Bushra Bibi kept waiting in the car for Imran for six hours,” Harris said.
Here, Judge Bashir said, “Khawaja Harris sahib, anger does not look good on your face.”
Nadeem, the investigation officer, reiterated: “No arrest warrants of any kind were issued for Bushra Bibi. Bushra Bibi’s arrest is not needed.”
Subsequently, the court declared her bail plea as “infructuous” and set aside her bail plea.
Imran questions NAB action sans probe into Bahria owner
Last week, Imran had questioned the credibility of the NAB probe in the Al-Qadir Trust case, pointing out the accountability watchdog’s failure to take action against Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz.
He made the remarks in his response to a call-up as he and Bushra Bibi joined the proceedings in the Al Qadir Trust case at NAB Rawalpindi’s office.
In a written reply, Imran also shifted responsibility on his former accountability aide Shahzad Akbar for making a secret deal with the property tycoon.
According to the reply, it was a misconception that the retrieved amount of £190m was not deposited in the national treasury. NAB grilled Imran for about four hours at its office and asked him to bring records along at the next hearing. Sources said that Imran’s reply was also termed “unsatisfactory” by NAB officials.
In his response about the money received from the UK, Imran stated, “It got deposited after conversion into PKR in the account opened in the name of Registrar Supreme Court of Pakistan…[if] the amount transferred constitutes ‘illegitimate amount’ and that Bahria Town is the beneficiary, thereof, it is indeed strange that till date you appear not to have taken any punitive measures against the owners of BTLK [Bahria Town] or applied to the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan for the recovery of the said amount on the ground that it is illegitimate money.”
He stated that since he was not aware of the settlement between the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Malik Riaz, he relied upon the briefing of Shahzad Akbar that “the amount was to be repatriated to Pakistan against the liability of respondents [Bahria Town].”
He said that the issue did not come under discussion in the cabinet.
“Shahzad Akbar got the deed of confidentiality approved from the cabinet on Dec 3, 2019. However, I am not aware of any other deed of confidentiality that may have been signed by SAPM Shahzad Akbar on Nov 06, 2019. As regard the allegations that in the deed of confidentiality stately signed on Nov 6, the designated account for adjustment of liability of BTLK was malafiedly intimated to the NCA UK for transfer of funds instead of repatriation of the recovered amount to the State of Pakistan, in order to give and obtain material benefit, I reiterate that I am not aware of any deed of confidentiality… nor was I privy to or have participated in providing any designated account to the NCA for repatriation of the funds from UK to the state of Pakistan,” he said.