KARACHI: An accountability court on Monday granted post-arrest bail to incumbent Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in a case pertaining to accumulating Rs1.61 billion assets allegedly through illegal sources.
Mr Durrani, a senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau in an Islamabad hotel on Feb 20, 2019 for investigation into his alleged movable and immovable assets beyond his known sources of income, making 352 illegal appointments, embezzlement of public funds in the construction of the MPA Hostel and the new Sindh Assembly building, as well as the appointment of project directors for these schemes.
On Monday, Judge Shahid Pervaiz Memon of the Accountability Court-VII pronounced his order reserved earlier on the second bail application of Mr Durrani.
The judge observed that there was no provision for the grant of bail to the accused prior to amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance.
The court noted that the accused remained in custody from July 1, 2019 to Nov 3, 2019 and from Dec 23, 2021 till the date.
It observed that the second arrest of the accused showed that he was continuously incarcerated for more than one year and examination of above 50 witnesses had obviously taken time to conclude the trial.
“No one can be kept in custody or incarceration for an indefinite period. Moreover, bail cannot be withheld as punishment,” ruled the judge while granted bail to Mr Durrani subject to furnishing a surety of Rs1 million.
Earlier, defence counsel Farooq H Naek had argued that his client remained in custody for a period of more than one year, adding that there were around 50 witnesses, whose testimonies were yet to be recorded by the prosecution.
The counsel said during the previous period of bail Mr Durrani had never misused this concession nor tempered with the evidence.
During the span of four years he had obtained only two adjournments, the counsel said, adding that following delays in the conclusion of the trial he was entitled to grant of bail on statutory grounds.
NAB prosecutors Syed Manzoor Ali and Nadeem Ali pointed out that similar grounds were already taken by the accused in his earlier bail plea, which was dismissed on Dec 29, 2022 by the court that observed that Mr Durrani had not remained in custody for one year continuously, as his last custody period was two months and 20 days, which means he had taken the ground of statutory delays prematurely.
However, they conceded that now more than one year had passed and the accused was still in custody.
Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2023