ISLAMABAD: Presi­dent Asif Ali Zardari has filed for immunity under Article 248 of the Cons­titution, aiming to stop the ongoing criminal proceedings against him in the Islamabad Accountability Court pertaining to the Thatta Water Supply Pro­ject and Park Lane cases.

Mr Zardari also intends to extend the immunity claim to two other cases concerning Toshakhana vehicles and fake bank accounts, his lead counsel, Senator Farooq H. Naek, told Dawn on Thursday.

Article 248 of the Constitution safeguards high-ranking officials, in­­cluding the president, from legal proceedings in court for actions taken during their term of office. It states that such officials “shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices” and prohibits any criminal proceedings or arrests during their tenure.

The accountability court has since issued a notice to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), seeking a response to Mr Zardari’s application for immunity by April 22.

In the Park Lane case, NAB accuses Mr Zardari of misappropriating funds through Parthenon Private Limited and Park Lane Estate Private Limited, among others. NAB alleges that Park Lane received a Rs1.5 billion loan, which later increased to Rs2.8bn, from a joint venture of the National Bank of Pakistan and Summit Bank, and the company later defaulted.

Mr Naek has claimed that NAB overlooked all the financial laws in this reference. He argues that NAB could not have proceeded in this matter without mandatory approval of the reference from the State Bank of Pakistan since it was a case of wilful default.

The Thatta Water Supply reference alleges that the accused illegally awarded different contracts to private contractors. Mr Zardari and Ijaz Khan, Hassan Ally Memon, who headed the committee responsible for the water supply scheme procurements, Omni Group CEO Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed, Menahel Majeed, and nine others are among the accused.

The Toshakhana vehicles reference is related to the payment of three luxury vehicles obtained from Toshakhana. Mr Zardari got two vehicles, while one was given to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Another former premier, Yousuf Raza Gillani, is also among the accused.

The fake bank accounts case has been transferred from an Islamabad accountability court to a banking court in Karachi.

Mr Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, and others face charges related to opening fake bank accounts and engaging in illegal transactions amounting to billions of rupees.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2024

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