ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has consented to an application seeking an end to criminal proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari.

In a written reply submitted to the accountability court in the Toshakhana vehicle reference, the prosecution of NAB stated that President Zardari enjoys constitutional immunity. NAB earlier last week cleared former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the reference.

According to the reference, President Zardari and Mr Sharif had obtained luxury cars from Toshakhana by paying only 15 per cent of the prices.

NAB alleged that ex-PM and the incumbent chairman Senate Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani facilitated the allotment of the vehicles to Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif by ‘dishonestly’ and ‘illegally’ relaxing the procedure for the acceptance and disposal of gifts vide a cabinet division memorandum of 2007.

The prosecution of NAB contended in the report that the vehicle concerned was gifted to then PM Nawaz by the government of Saudi Arabia and deposited in Toshakhana.

It added that later the car was included in the federal transport pool. In 2008, then PM Gilani offered Nawaz to buy the car at which the latter did so from the federal transport pool and not the Toshakhana, the NAB report said.

“This case may attract any other offence but has no relevancy with the benefit of Toshakhana as the subject vehicle when purchased was not part of Toshakhana rather was part of the federal transport pool,” it said.

It stated that Mr Sharif had not made the payment for the vehicle from a fake bank account, reiterating that the car was not part of the Toshakhana valuables when he bought it.

President Zardari claimed immunity as provided in Article 248 of the constitution against criminal proceedings.

Advocate Farooq H. Naek filed the application on behalf of Mr Zardari.

It claimed presidential immunity in Toshakhana vehicles, Park Lane estate, Thatta water supply and fake bank accounts references.

Article 248(1) of the constitution says: “The President, a Governor, the Prime Minister, a Federal Minister, a Minister of State, a Chief Minister, and a Provincial Minister shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done, in the performance of those functions”.

Article 248(2) says, “No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or pursued against the president or a governor during his term of office”.

Article 248(3) adds that “no process for arrest or imprisonment of the president or a governor shall issue from any court during his term of office”.

In the Park Lane case, NAB had accused Mr Zardari of being involved “in extending loan and its misappropriation by M/s Parthenon Private Limited, M/s Park Lane Estate Private Limited and others”. NAB alleged that Park Lane company had received a loan of Rs1.5 billion, which later increased to Rs2.8bn, from a joint venture of the National Bank of Pakistan and Summit Bank. The company later defaulted to this amount.

Thatta water supply reference alleged that the accused had illegally awarded different contracts to private contractors.

Mr Zardari and Ijaz Khan, Hassan Ally Memon, who headed the committee responsible for procurements related to the water supply scheme, Omni Group CEO Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed, Menahel Majeed and nine others are among the accused persons.

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

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

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2024

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