ISLAMABAD: The accountability court on Wednesday dismissed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s plea seeking exemption from personal appearance and ordered his guarantor to appear in person and ensure that Dar also appears before the court at the next hearing in connection with the graft case against him.
The minister, who is said to be in London for heart treatment, is accused by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) of possessing assets disproportionate to his declared sources of income.
During the hearing, Ishaq Dar’s secondary counsel, Ayesha Hamid, requested the court to grant her client exemption from appearance on medical grounds and argued that the court should continue the case by approving the appointment of a legal representative.
Interestingly, Dar nominated Zafir Khan as his pleader, the same person who pleaded on behalf of Nawaz Sharif while he was in London attending to his wife.
After initially reserving its judgement on the application, the court declared that Dar must appear in the court himself and he could then file an application stating he wants to be represented by a pleader.
The court upheld the bailable arrest warrants previously issued against Dar and doubled the surety ordered against the warrants from Rs1 million to 2m. The hearing of the case was adjourned until November 14.
The judge observed that when the minister appears next, the court will have a separate medical examination conducted to ascertain the nature of Dar’s ailment.
The court further ordered Dar’s bail guarantor to ensure the minister’s presence at the next hearing, warning that the surety bond of Rs 5 million would be confiscated in case of a no-show.
DAR MAY NOT RETURN:
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had earlier told journalists that Ishaq Dar may not return to Pakistan in the near future.
Earlier, the anti-graft watchdog’s Lahore office had ordered all departments concerned and banks to freeze Dar’s accounts as well as any moveable or immovable assets that he owns in Pakistan and had also issued arrest warrants against him for not appearing before the court.
The Supreme Court (SC), in its Panama Papers case verdict, had ordered NAB to investigate the accused named in the report filed by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
The JIT had pointed out an exorbitant increase in Dar’s assets from 2008 to 2009. NAB authorities summoned the minister but he did not appear for investigation, arguing that NAB could not investigate him as he had filed a review petition in the apex court.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had reportedly submitted Dar’s tax return data from the last 20 years to NAB. The SECP had also handed over the records of seven companies owned by the minister and his family members to the anti-corruption watchdog.
Dar is a close relative of Sharif and was among the select few who had direct access to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Dar, who virtually acted as the deputy prime minister and headed over 45 government committees, had lost Sharif’s trust during the Panama Papers investigation when the former premier was informed that his finance minister was looking to strike a deal with the investigators, as he had done in 2000 in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.