• Pervez Khattak claims cabinet chaired by ex-PM had approved confidential deed to return money to property tycoon Malik Riaz
• PTI founder asks Supreme Court to dismiss govt challenges against NAB judgement

RAWALPINDI: As former prime minister Imran Khan faces a jail trial in the £190 million corruption case, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak arri­ved in Adiala Jail on Wednes­day to testify against him before an accountability court.

Before he parted ways with the PTI to form the now-defunct PTI-Parliamentarians in the run-up to the Feb 8 polls, Mr Khattak was a key PTI leader, also serving as defence minister in Mr Khan’s federal cabinet, which he claimed had approved a confidential deed to transfer money, seized by the UK, to Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz.

Before Mr Khattak, a number of people considered close to the ex-premier have stood in the witness box in several cases faced by the PTI leader. His secretary Azam Khan testified in the cipher case, while another aide, Aun Chaudhry recorded his statement in the Iddat case.

Usually, the PTI founder does not move from his chair when witnesses record statements. But for Pervez Khattak, Mr Khan rose from his chair and approached the witness box, apparently to get a good look at his former comrade who had now turned against him.

In his almost 15-minute stat­e­ment, the former PTI leader told accountability judge Moh­a­mmad Ali Warriach about the cabinet’s approval of the confidential deed, where the £190m seized by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) as proceeds of crime, was allegedly returned to the property tycoon.

The case alleges that Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi obtained billions of rupees and land to the tune of hundreds of kanal from Bahria Town Ltd for legalising the said amount through the federal cabinet.

Mr Khattak testified before the court that he was a participant in the December 2019 meeting, where then-accountability adviser Mirza Shahzad Akbar produced the confidential deed in a sealed envelope for cabinet approval. He said when he inquired about the document, Mr Akbar said that it was an agreement of the Pakistani government with the NCA for the refund of crime proceeds.

According to the former minister, some cabinet members had asked Shahzad Akbar to disclose the document, but he refused to do so despite their insistence, saying that the deed was confidential.

Prosecution witnesses Zubaida Jalal, Nadeem Afzal Chan, and former principal secretary Azam Khan did not appear before the court. Owing to this fact, the defence counsel Usman Riaz Gill and Zaheer Abbas did not cross-examine Mr Khattak, saying that since all these witnesses concerned the same evidence, they would cross-examine them jointly. The next hearing is set for July 13.

‘Nothing special’

Speaking to media persons later, Imran Khan downplayed the statement of his former aide, saying that he did not say “anything special”. However, Mr Khan said that he would comment on this particular issue after the cross-examination was complete.

Mr Khan also urged the powers that be to conduct transparent elections to save Pakistan from the ongoing crisis, calling PM Shehbaz Sharif a ‘puppet’ of the establishment.

He claimed that the Feb 8 polls were a ‘historic fraud’ and the chief justice was remanding the case of the PTI to the ECP, which was responsible for it in the first place.

NAB appeals

Separately, the PTI founder requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the federal government’s intra-court appeal against a Sept 15 judgement of the top court, which had ruled that changes to the NAB law were illegal.

In a written submission on behalf of Imran Khan, the plea said the amendments to the NAO represent an unprecedented and egregious example of legislative manipulation. On June 6, a five-judge SC bench headed by CJP Qazi Faez Isa reserved its ruling on the federal government’s appeal against the Sept 15 majority judgement.

He said if the NAB is abusing its authority and powers, as it did in the Toshakhana case, then the NAO should be reformed to prevent such abuses. “The most glaring example of this abuse is the NAB case against me,” Imran Khan stated, adding that a necklace worth Rs18 million was falsely declared as being worth Rs3.18 billion, leading to an unjust case being filed. He said instead of abolishing NAB or weakening its mandate, it must be strengthened to prevent abuse of power.

Nasir Iqbal also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2024

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