ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari appeared before accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir for facing allegations of corruption but he could not be indicted in two references. The court would hear arguments of counsel of Zardari on 18th January regarding allegations. During hearing Farooq Naek said Zardari could not be indicted as there are no proofs against him and all other co-accused have been acquitted in all references. Farooq Naek said Zardari could not be indicted in Polo Ground and Cotecna cases. During the hearing four former bureaucrats appeared before the court for recording their statements.
Former president appeared before the court in tight security but left the courtroom after very short time of appearance. Zardari remained in courtroom for 10 minutes. Zardari reached in courtroom on 9:05 am. Asif Zardari was looking satisfied on the occasion.
Opposition Leader in National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah, former PMs Yousuf Raza Gilani, Raja Parvez Ashraf, Farhatullah Bbar, Opposition Leader in Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Mian Raza Rabbani, Senator Jehangir Badar, Senator Farooq H Naek, Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistn Syed Mehdi Shah, former interior minister Rehman Malik, former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and a large number of party leaders and workers were accompanying the former president on the occasion of his appearance in accountability court. The workers of PPP also raised slogans in favor Asif Zardari on the occasion.
During the course of proceedings, Farooq H Naek, counsel for Zardari, submitted a plea, stating that all accused in polo ground had been acquitted while pleaded the court to end charges against his client. During the hearing accountability court judge said if Asif Zardari wants exemption from court appearance he should submit formal request the court will consider the request. Accountability court judge after attendance of Asif Zardair asked the former president he court leave the courtroom. The court has adjourned the further hearing of the references till 18th of January. On the occasion of the hearing four former officers appeared before court for recording statements. The former officers who appeared before court include Manzoor Memon, Neelum Ali, Muhammad Malick and Muhammad Amir. The Nab prosecutor Chaudhry Riaz argued in court that the formers officers were summoned for recording statements. Farooq Naek said all these persons have recorded statements in past. The witnesses also rectified the receiving of summons.
Addressing the media after the hearing, Farooq Naek said his client had security threats, adding that Zardari hadn’t been indicted as yet.
Farooq said that a debate would be held over indictment during the next hearing, emphasizing that no charge has been framed against Zardari. The court adjourned the hearing till January 18, he added.
He said there is no ground of framing charges against Zardari as he is not a main accused in the case and the main accused have already been acquitted.
“We believe in rule of law… He is a brave man and will appear again if the court ordered,” Naik said.
Naik said his client was not indicted today and the grounds of charge-sheeting are yet to be debated by the defence side. He said if needed the plea for exemption of appearance of Zardari would be sought from court if needed in future. He said the court has not issued any order for personal appearance of Zardari in court. Farooq Naek said Asif Zardari always appeared before courts on summoning, adding that he would appear in court in future too if needed. He said Zardari believes in supremacy of the courts. He said the security threats are present at every time, adding that the interior ministry and IG Islamabad police provided foolproof security to Zardari for appearance in court.
It is worth mentioning here that the security from the suburbs of the courtroom was removed immediately after Zardari left the courtroom. Naek said the whole record of cases is with the court and he will argue in cases, adding that the decision would have to made by the court. He said summoned the witnesses is the job of the prosecution and his duty is to defend his client.
It was for the first time when Asif ali Zardari turned up in any court to face charges since end of his tenure as president of Pakistan back in September 2013.
He was earlier summoned in five references filed by the National Accountability Bureau but didn’t appear before the court due to security issues and presidential immunity when he was in office. His cases were reopened last year when NAB pleaded that his immunity had ended after he had stepped down.
The references filed against the former president are:
Polo ground case: This reference builds upon the construction of a polo ground along with ancillary works at the Prime Minister House, which NAB says are illegal and in violation of the rights and privileges afforded to him.
SGS: This corruption case is the continuance of a reference filed in 1997 that accused the late Benazir Bhutto and her spouse Zardari to have gained off a contract between the SGS and the government.
ARY: This reference revolves around granting of trade licenses to ARY Traders for importing gold and silver which NAB says has caused losses to the treasury.
Ursus tractors: This reference deals with alleged corruption during the import of Russian and Polish tractors.
Cotecna: This case is about the award of a contract to the Swiss company after allegedly receiving six per cent bribe on the revenue proceeds.