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Asif Zardari approached SC to hear May 28 dismissal

17 November, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday approached the Supreme Court with a request to urgently hear his May 28 challenge to the [dismissal][1] of his plea against the transfer of fake/benami accounts case from a banking court in Karachi to the accountability court of Islamabad.

A two-page application moved by senior counsel Farooq H. Naek on behalf of Mr Zardari urged the apex court to take up the appeal on Monday or Tuesday along with a separate petition seeking stay on the proceedings against him before the accountability court of Islamabad in the interest of justice.

The application contended that the fake accounts case had been pending trial before the accountability court of Islamabad since its transfer from Karachi’s banking court. In case the trial would commence, prejudice would be caused to the petitioner and the appeal pending before the SC, it apprehended, seeking grant of stay order.

The appeal, which has also been pending before the SC for nearly six months, challenged the Sindh High Court decision about dismissal of his applications against the transfer of a case (FIR No 4/2018) against him from Karachi to Islamabad. It argued that the April 2 direction of the SHC was contrary to the facts as the apex court in its Jan 7 order had not given any direction for transfer of the case from the Karachi’s banking court to Islamabad’s accountability court.

Earlier in February, the apex court had rejected a set of review petitions by the ex-president in the Rs35 billion fake accounts case with observations that in matters of institutional capture, the apex court was not helpless and could summon any executive authority to come in its aid for assistance. Through the review petitions, the former president, his sister Faryal Talpur, Omni Group of Companies, Anver Majeed, Abdul Ghani Majeed of the Omni Group, Sindh government and miscellaneous applications by PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and many others had challenged the Jan 7 order of referring the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report to NAB.

The appeal recalled that the JIT in its final synthesis report of Dec 19, 2018 had requested the Supreme Court to approve referring the case from director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for taking further cognizance under the relevant provisions of NAB Ordinance, 1999. In the final synthesis report, the JIT prayed before the apex court to give appropriate directions to the NAB to inquire/investigate 16 different issues without mentioning the FIR pending trial before the apex court. But the Supreme Court did not pass any order for the transfer of the case to NAB, it said, observing that the high court decision of April 2 was a “misreading or non-reading” of the Jan 7 order passed by the apex court that had not given any direction for the filing of reference at Islamabad.

The high court committed a ‘grave error’ by misinterpreting the apex court order, the appeal stated, adding that the SHC failed to appreciate that from the plain reading of Section 16A(a) of the NAB Ordinance, it was crystal clear that though the NAB chairman could apply for the transfer of any case pending before any court to the accountability court under Section 16 A (a) of the ordinance but “only in the same province”. Thus the SHC order was based on “misreading” of the NAB ordinance, the appeal argued.

Section 16A(a) of NAO deals with the transfer of cases from one province to another only after the permission is obtained by the prosecutor general of NAB from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the petition recalled, adding in the instant case no such permission had been sought from the SC.

Likewise, it said, the high court passed the order without dilating whether any offence had been committed that attracted provisions of Section 9 of NAB Ordinance, therefore the high court was liable to be set aside by the SC.

The appeal also highlighted that all the essential persons, documents and witnesses in the case were within the jurisdiction of the SHC and the transfer of the case to Islamabad would cause great inconvenience to the accused persons and witnesses and thus “the transfer was against the principles of natural justice”.

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