ISLAMABAD: The accountability court on Monday issued bailable arrest warrant for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after he failed to appear in graft proceedings against him.
As the court proceedings began, Dar’s counsel Khawaja Harris pleaded before Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir to allow his client exemption from Monday’s appearance as Dar is currently in London due to medical reasons.
Harris stated in the application that Dar, after attending the 16th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe, had travelled to Jeddah, where he fell sick and had to go to London for medical treatment. The counsel also presented Dar’s medical report and assured the court that his client would appear at the next hearing on Thursday.
Subsequently, the judge reserved the decision on the plea after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor opposed the request and urged the court to issue arrest warrants for the accused to ensure his presence for the hearings. He added that Dar should have sought permission from the court before leaving the country.
During Monday’s proceedings, NAB was expected to produce a new witness, Muhammad Azeem Khan, while the defence counsel was to complete cross-examination on the two witnesses, Abdul Rehman Gondal and Masood Ghani, who appeared before the court during the hearing on October 23 and recorded their statement. Proceedings in the trial could not proceed due to Dar’s absence from the hearing. However, prosecution witness Abdul Rehman Gondal came to the court carrying two gunny bags filled with documents pertaining to Dar’s bank accounts.
During the last hearing on October 23, the court recorded statements of two more prosecution witnesses — Abdul Rehman Gondal of Allied Bank and Masoodul Ghani of Habib Bank Limited.
During the hearing, the NAB also asked the accountability court to endorse the bureau’s order of freezing assets, properties, bank accounts and investments of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in Pakistan and abroad in the illegal assets reference.
NAB had passed a “freezing order” on October 18 regarding two-and-a-half dozen bank accounts and assets of Dar in Pakistan and abroad, the court documents revealed.
In the application, the anti-graft watchdog has listed details of six bank accounts in Lahore and Islamabad, 13 assets within the country and seven assets/companies abroad.
In the application, NAB has informed the Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir that assets and properties etc “in the name of the accused Muhammad Ishaq Dar and/or his dependents/benamidars [are] disproportionate to his known sources of income, for which he could not reasonably account for”.
The NAB prosecutor had appealed to the court to pass an order for confirmation of the “freezing order”. While supplying a copy of the application to Dar’s counsel, Khawaja Harris, the court has fixed hearing for arguments over the application on October 30.
In line with the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgement in the Panama Papers case, NAB had filed a reference in an accountability court in Islamabad, which on September 27 indicted Dar in a graft reference pertaining to the ownership of assets beyond known sources of income and directed the prosecution to start producing witnesses and evidence.