ISLAMABAD: An accountability court of Islamabad on Thursday summoned former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani in Toshakhana vehicles reference.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is an absconder in this case, and proceedings against him will start upon his surrender.
Accountability judge Mohammad Bashir resumed proceedings on this reference, along with other references, against Mr Zardari and others.
These references had been closed and returned to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) following the apex court’s verdict that nullified the amendments to the NAB’s law introduced by the PDM government shortly after toppling the PTI the government.
Proceedings against Nawaz Sharif will commence upon his surrender
The court has summoned Mr Zardari and Mr Gillani for Oct 24.
According to the reference filed by NAB, Mr Gillani, in order to extend illegal benefits to Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif, allowed the retention of vehicles gifted to them by different foreign states and dignitaries by relaxing procedures related to the submission of gifts in the Toshakhana.
The accused, “through dishonest and illegal means for their personal benefit and interest”, retained the vehicles in question “against a nominal payment of 15 per cent of the total value”, the reference stated.
It added that Mr Zardari made the payments for vehicles through the Omni Group’s chief executive and his son “for which he has no plausible justification”.
“It was established during investigation that these amounts are in the context of illegitimate laundered proceeds for the benefit of the accused,” the reference reads.
The reference maintained that Mr Gillani, in connivance with Mr Zardari and Mr Nawaz, “dishonestly and illegally relaxed the procedure for the acceptance and disposal of gifts […] which stipulate that vehicles shall not be allowed to be purchased by the recipients”.
“The accused [Mr Gillani] flouted and suppressed the law and the procedure to grant undue concession and benefits, resulting in wrongful loss to the national exchequer,” the statement added.
According to the reference, during his tenure as the president of Pakistan, Mr Zardari accepted and received vehicles as gifts from the United Arab Emirates in 2005 and from Libya in 2008.
“He neither reported the gifted vehicles nor deposited the same. The accused preferred his own personal interests and obtained undue concession and benefits,” it added.
Meanwhile, the reference maintained that Mr Nawaz, who did not hold any public office in 2008, “knowingly and with dishonest intention obtained illegal favour in connivance with [Mr Gillani] by obtaining relaxation of the said procedure for acceptance and disposal of gifts”.
Established in 1974, Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments, states and foreign dignitaries as a goodwill gesture.
Under the rules, it is mandatory that gifts of a certain value are deposited in Toshakhana. However, an official is also allowed to keep these gifts provided he pays a certain percentage of the price assessed by the Toshakhana evaluation committee.
Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2023