–SHC orders NAB to respond to Zardari’s plea against transfer of case to Rawalpindi within a week
–PPP co-chairman also gets 10-day protective bail in Park Lane Estate case, due to appear before NAB on Wednesday
KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday granted a 10-day protective bail to former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in the fake accounts case that is being probed by the accountability watchdog.
Both Zardari and Talpur have been ordered to submit Rs1 million as surety bonds.
The high court also heard a petition filed by Zardari challenging a court ruling that had allowed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to transfer the fake accounts case to Rawalpindi.
On Jan 7, the apex court had issued its verdict in the fake accounts case, ordering NAB to probe further and wrap up its investigation in two months. In his remarks, then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar had said that “angels didn’t open the accounts” and someone has to be held responsible for them, after which the issue was sent to NAB. The bureau had then requested a banking court to allow it to transfer the case to Rawalpindi, which was granted.
A two-member bench, comprising SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Sheikh and Justice Umar Sial, heard the petition.
Zardari’s counsel Farooq Naek maintained that the transfer of the case was in contradiction with a Supreme Court verdict passed in January this year.
“What do you have to say about the Supreme Court’s verdict?” Justice Sheikh asked Naek. The former president’s counsel said that NAB had “misinterpreted” the decision, adding that in paragraph 300 of its ruling, the apex court had not ordered that the case be transferred to Islamabad.
He also pointed out that the Supreme Court had ordered NAB to complete its probe within two months and that time period had already lapsed. Justice Sheikh asked Naek if he had raised this point in the top court, to which the lawyer replied that the matter had not come under discussion in the Supreme Court.
“The NAB chairman submitted a request [in this regard] in the banking court after the Supreme Court had wrapped up the [fake accounts’ case],” Zardari’s lawyer told the bench.
He argued that the fake accounts case did not fall under NAB’s jurisdiction as it was not related to corruption. The first information report, Naek added, did not say that the case should be investigated by NAB.
The bench, however, maintained that the top court had “written [in its verdict] that it orders the case to be transferred to NAB”.
“What is left after the Supreme Court’s verdict?” asked Justice Sheikh, adding that the counsel should tell the court about the law under which NAB is allowed to issue a supplementary challan.
Subsequently, the SHC issued notices to the NAB prosecutor and director general of the body’s Karachi office, ordering them to submit their responses within a week. The bench dismissed Naek’s request to summon the entire record of the case.
The high court also turned down Zardari’s request to issue a stay order and declared that a decision will be taken after listening to all parties of the case.
The hearing was adjourned until March 26.
PARK LANE CASE
The SHC also granted Zardari a 10-day protective bail in the Park Lane Estate Company case after hearing a petition by the former president said that he feared arrest by NAB.
The high court heard Zardari’s petition challenging NAB’s summons in an investigation pertaining to the Park Lane Estate Company. NAB had initiated an inquiry against the father-son duo in pursuance of allegations that Park Lane Estate Company (Pvt) Ltd — a Karachi-based real estate firm co-owned by Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari — along with government officials were behind the illegal transfer of forest land to the firm.
NAB had ordered Zardari and Bilawal to appear for questioning on March 20.
The former president, in his appeal filed on Tuesday, argued that NAB could not interfere in the dealings of two private companies and urged the court to nullify the call up notice by the anti-corruption bureau. Zardari also requested the court to grant him protective bail.