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ISLAMABAD: A prosecution witness in Toshakhana case against former president Asif Ali Zardari, former premiers, Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and Nawaz Sharif Monday told the court that he was not present during oath-taking ceremonies of former president Zardari and the two ex-prime ministers.

Prosecution witness Kaleem Shehzad, a section officer in the Cabinet Division said this before Accountability Court-III judge Syed Asghar Ali during the cross examination, while responding to a question asked by Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek.

The NAB had filed Toshakhana case against Zardari, two former premiers Gilani and Sharif, and others for allegedly acquiring three vehicles including BMW 750 Li model 2004, Toyota Lexus Jeep 472 model 2007 gifted by the embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and BMW 760 LI model 2008 gifted by embassy of Libya and gifts from Toshakhana - an official treasury where gifts from foreign dignitaries or heads of state are deposited - in violation of rules and regulations.

At the start of the hearing, Zardari, Gilani and other accused counsel field separate applications seeking one-day exemption for their clients, which the court approved.

The witness during the previous hearing, while recording his statement produced the oaths of Zardari, Gilani, and Nawaz Sharif as president and prime ministers, respectively.

When Naek asked the witness that were you present at the oath-taking ceremony Zardari, Sharif and Gilani?

The witness replied in the negative.

He said that he was not posted in the relevant section at that time.

When the witness was asked by Naek that when he had appeared before the NAB investigation officer (IO), he replied that he appeared before the NAB’s IO on July 10, 2019.

The name of IO was Raheel, he said, adding that at the time of producing record before the IO his immediate boss was Maqsood Ahmed Baloch.

To another question asked by the defence counsel, the witness said that he had taken permission from his immediate boss for appearing before the NAB and handing over documents to the IO.

At one stage, the judge told Naek not to put answer in the witness’s mouth and we will write those answer what he says.

When Naek asked the witness that is it correct that you have not produced any written permission of your boss. The witness replied that the statement recorded by the IO NAB clearly shows that he was appearing before the NAB with the permission of the additional secretary-I Cabinet Division. The said has been recorded by the IO in the statement. I had shown the written permission before the IO, he said.

He said that it is correct that wide letter dated March 6, 2019, he has enclosed documents to Asim Lodhi director to chairman NAB which have been produced by him in Court. It is correct that Asim Lodhi was not IO.

During the hearing, the court also recorded the statement of another witness Syed Muhammad Bilal, a police officer. I appeared before the NAB IO on January 20, 2020 in the connection with Toshakhana case. I was nominated by additional director general Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to produce the final synthesis report of joint investigation team before (IO), he said.

The court adjourned hearing of the case till September 16, after completion of statement of the witness, Bilal.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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