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ISLAMABAD: The Accountability Court Islamabad on Thursday adjourned the hearing of Toshakhana case against former president Asif Ali Zardari, two former premiers, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and Nawaz Sharif, and others due to unavailability of Zardari’s lead counsel till February 10.

The Accountability Court-III judge, Syed Asghar Ali, adjourned the Toshakhana case after it was told that Zardari’s lead counsel Farooq H Naek is ill and he is unable to appear before it.

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

During the hearing, Zardari’s lead counsel Barrister Shiraz Shaukat Rajpar also prayed the court to adjourn the hearing of the case till the decision over a petition filed by his client under 265, which is pending before the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

At this, the judge said that you cannot bound the court that it will not proceed with the case until the decision over Zardari’s petition is announced. Rajpar argued that if the court continued recording of evidence in the case than our application pending before the IHC will be rendered infructuous. He also requested the court to adjourn hearing of the case till February 17 as the lead counsel is ill.

The court turned down his request and adjourned hearing of the case till February 10 and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor, Waseem Javed, to ensure presence of the witnesses for cross examination and recording of statement.

The NAB had filed the Toshakhana reference against former president Zardari, two former prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Gillani, and others for allegedly acquiring of three vehicles including BMW 750 Li model 2004, Toyota Lexus Jeep 472 model 2007 gifted by the embassy of from 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.

According to the bureau, the evidence collected during the course of inquiry and investigation has established that the accused, Gilani in order to extend illegal benefit to the accused, Zardari and Sharif, illegally allowed the retention of vehicles gifted to them by various foreign states and dignitaries, which at that time belonged to the Central Pool of Cars, Cabinet Division, relaxing the procedure of Toshakhana, illegally.

The accused, Zardari and Sharif, had retained the said vehicles against the nominal payment of 15 percent of total value of the vehicles. The accused, Zardari, made the payment for vehicles, and duties of these vehicles through the accused, Khawaja Anwer Majid and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majid, from “fake” bank accounts.

The accused, Gilani, former prime minister and minister-in-charge Cabinet Division from 2008-2012 had “illegally” relaxed the procedure for the acceptance and disposal of gifts, issued by the government through the Cabinet Division OM no9/8/2004 TK dated June 25, 2007. According to these rules, “gifted vehicles shall not be allowed to be purchased by the recipients and be given to the Central Pool of Cars of the Cabinet Division”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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