NAB to withdrew its appeal against Asif Zardari

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ISLAMABAD: The Accountability court has sought to withdraw its appeals against former president Asif Ali Zardari’s acquittal in references that went back to the 1990s, insisting that pursuing these cases was futile as the available evidence didn’t comply with the law.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed these references against Mr Zardari some 25 years ago. The PPP leader was later acquitted in 2014 and 2015.

In an application filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday, NAB’s prosecution contended that further pursuing these cases would be futile as the available evidence was based on photocopies and didn’t comply with the Qanoon-i-Shahadat (law of evidence).

In 2020, the anti-graft watchdog informed the IHC that records of four old references filed against Mr Zardari in the 1990s had gone missing.

The original record in the assets reference against the former president had reportedly gone missing from the custody of an accountability court, besides the original case record of SGS and Cotecna corruption references, in which he had also been acquitted.

On Nov 24, 2015, the Islamabad accountability court exonerated Mr Zardari from charges of using an official position for monetary benefits in the 1998 SGS-Cotecna corruption references.

The references accused Mr Zardari and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto of receiving six per cent of the total amount as kickbacks for awarding pre-shipment inspection contracts to SGS and Cotecna.

According to the ARY Gold reference, Ms Bhutto, Mr Zardari and others allegedly allowed ARY Gold owner Haji Abdul Razzaq to import gold and silver without paying duties between 1995 and 1997, inflicting a hefty loss to the national exchequer.

Interestingly, the investigation officer in the ARY corruption reference disowned the evidence when he recorded his statement before the accountability court, which also noted this aspect while acquitting Mr Zardari.

In 2014, the accountability court acquitted Mr Zardari in ARY Gold and Ursus tractors references.

The Ursus reference was about the alleged misappropriation of funds in buying 5,900 Russian and Polish tractors at a cost of Rs150,000 each for the Awami Tractor Scheme.

Mr Zardari was one of the main accused along with Ms Bhutto. However, her name was later removed from the reference.

The tractors purchase deal allegedly caused a Rs268.3 million loss to the former Agriculture Development Bank of Pakistan (now the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited) and Rs1.67 billion to the State Bank of Pakistan.

In December last year, NAB’s additional prosecutor general, Jahanzaib Khan Bharwana, informed the Islamabad High Court that the original record of the reference had gone missing.

The court noted at the time that it took the NAB seven years to realise that the appeals were filed without the original record and asked how it happened and warned of penalising the bureau for wasting the court’s time.

Mr Bharwana then told the court the record had gone missing while it was being transported from the Lahore High Court to the Supreme Court.

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