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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Tuesday, directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to satisfy the court regarding filing of reference against former president Asif Ali Zardar in Rs 8.3 billion suspicious transactions in fake bank accounts case.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq heard a petition filed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman against the Islamabad accountability court’s order dated October 14 of rejecting his acquittal plea in the case.

During the hearing, the chief justice remarked that apparently, the NAB’s reference against Zardari was not in accordance with the law and the investigation officer did not keep in mind his powers, while filing the reference. He reprimanded the bureau that all its references got busted because they were not prepared as per the law.

The court asked the anti-graft watchdog to make a new reference, while excluding the income tax matter from it. Justice Minallah remarked that the NAB should have first sent this matter to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) before making the reference. He said that the bureau was just wasting its time by making pointless references. He stated that the NAB was not above the law.

The CJ observed that how the bureau could declare, null and void, the Income Tax Order by itself, while it does not have any jurisdiction to nullify the FBR Assessment Order. He ordered the watchdog to send the case to the FBR as the revenue board does have the authority to look into the matter.

Farooq Naek, the counsel for the former president, said that he had submitted the acquittal application of Zardari before his indictment. He said that the accountability court should have sent a notice to the NAB and should have sought a reply from it.

Later, the court deferred the hearing in this matter till January 18 for further proceedings. Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek stated in the petition that he moved an acquittal plea under Section 265-D read with Section 256-K code of criminal procedure before Accountability Court-III judge Syed Ashgar Ali but the court turned down Zardari’s plea and decided to indict him and the other accused on October 28.

According to the petition filed by Naek on behalf of Zardari, the allegations against the accused Zardari in the reference is regarding purchase of house no F-33, block-04, Clifton, Karachi for a sum Rs150 million, which has admitted in the reference duly declared in the wealth statement filed before the FBR and statement of assets and liabilities submitted before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

It added that it is also admitted in the reference that conveyance deed of the said property was duly registered, showing sale price paid in cash but it alleged that the payment was made through 18 cheques from joint account of Zain Malik and Mushtaq Ahmed. The petition also read that the accused has committed no offence come with preview of section 9(a)(ii)(iv) punishable under Section 10 of the NAO-1999. It continued that there is neither any loss to the national exchequer nor any misuse of authority committed by the applicant and it is private civil transaction between seller and purchaser under transfer of property act and contract act as applicable in Pakistan.

Petitioner’s counsel argued that while passing the order dated October 14, the AC failed to appreciate that the National Accountability (second amendment) Ordinance 2021 has been promulgated and some amendments has been made in NAO 1999 including Section 4, thereof, vide Section 2.

He added that the provision of the NAB (Second Amendment) Ordinance shall not be applicable to all matters pertaining to federal, provincial or local taxation or any person or entity, who are not directly or indirectly connected with the holder of public office.

He maintained that after enforcement of the NAB (Second Amendment) Ordinance all inquiries, investigation, trial or proceedings under the ordinance relating to the persons or transactions mentioned in sub-section 2 shall stand transferred to the concerned authorities, departments and courts.

Therefore, he prayed before the court to declare the said AC order as malafide, illegal, null and void abinitio, while suspending the operation of the said order. He also requested the court to restrain the AC from framing charge against the petitioner and acquit him in the said reference.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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