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NAB told IHC corruption references against Asif Ali Zardari

17 September, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday that a missing key witness in two corruption references against former president Asif Ali Zardari was now available to testify in the cases.

Additional deputy prosecutor general (ADPG) of NAB, Chaudhry Riaz while arguing in an appeal filed against the acquittal of Mr Zardari in ARY gold and Ursus tractors corruption references told the court that former joint secretary Ehtesab Cell, Hassan Waseem Afzal, was untraceable during the last government of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

He said that during the court proceedings against co-accused in the corruption references, Mr Afzal was summoned a number of times but he neither responded nor turned up to the court adding that the whereabouts of the witness were also not known at that time.

According to him, due to unavailability of the witness, the prosecution had to drop him from the witnesses list.

IHC division bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi and Justice Aamir Farooq remarked that the prosecution could have issued arrest warrants for the witness to procure his attendance.

The bench, however, asked NAB to present the record of the trial in ARY and Ursus corruption references within a fortnight.

An accountability court in Islamabad acquitted Mr Zardari in the two corruption references (Ursus Tractors and the ARY gold import) on December 12, 2014 under Section 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code which empowers a judge to acquit an accused if the evidence against him is insufficient.

The accountability court acquitted Mr Zardari after his counsel Farooq H. Naek informed the judge that the co-accused in both the references had already been acquitted by the accountability court.

ADPG Riaz told the IHC that during the trial of the co-accused the bureau did not place evidence against Zardari on the judicial record as at that time being president Mr Zardari was enjoying immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Article 248 (2) says that no criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office.

After the end of the immunity when Mr Zardari relinquished the president’s office, the bureau revived references against him and wanted to place the evidence before the court but he was acquitted under section 265-K, the additional deputy prosecutor general argued.

He contended before the court that the charges against Mr Zardari were framed by the Ehtisab bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) but the accountability court did not conduct his trial under the charge sheets issued to him by the bench.

The ARY corruption reference is related to granting licences to ARY traders for import of gold and silver which caused losses to the public exchequer, amounting to approximately Rs18.2 million.

Ursus tractors case deals with alleged misappropriation in the purchase of 5,900 Russian and Polish tractors at a cost of Rs150,000 each, for the then Awami Tractor Scheme. The deal allegedly caused a loss of Rs268.3 million to the Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan now known as Zarai Tarqiati Bank and Rs1.67 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan.

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