Lawyer asks accountability court to suspend process of declaring Dar a proclaimed offender

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Minister, Finance, Ishaq Dar

Former finance minister Ishaq Dar’s counsel on Monday requested an accountability court in Islamabad to delay the process of declaring his client a proclaimed offender until next week.

The accountability court is conducting a hearing in connection with a corruption reference filed against Dar by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The court is expected to declare Dar, who is accused of amassing assets beyond his known sources of income, a proclaimed offender during today’s hearing as the deadline given to the former minister to appear before the court in connection with the reference filed against him expires. The former finance minister has repeatedly failed to join the trial and has remained in London for some time now undergoing medical treatment.

During today’s hearing, Dar’s counsel, Advocate Khawaja Harris, told the bench that his client’s medical report will be submitted to the court next week and will contain the former minister’s diagnosis. Therefore, he added, the process of declaring Dar a proclaimed offender should be deferred.

NAB’s prosecution team objected to the request for a suspension in proceedings. “Why is Dar running from the court when he has not been diagnosed yet?” NAB’s prosecutor asked.

In response, Harris argued that under Article 9 of the Constitution every citizen of the country has a right to live a healthy life.

He said that on this basis Dar should be given an exemption and the arrest warrants issued against him by the court should be cancelled.

In a previous hearing of the case, the court had declared Dar an absconder and warned his guarantors of the confiscation of surety bonds worth Rs5 million if the accused did not join trial proceedings.

‘Assets beyond known income’

The noose seems to be tightening further around the former finance minister after NAB decided to reopen the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference against him.

The Hudaibiya reference will be the second ‘mega-corruption’ case against Dar being investigated by NAB, after the reference filed against him in the wake of the Panama Papers case judgement.

The reopening of the case was recommended by the joint investigation team formed by the apex court to probe the Panama Papers allegations against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.

On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

In its reference against the finance minister, NAB alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.

The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.

The government also withdrew the portfolio of finance minister from Ishaq Dar.

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