ISLAMABAD: Accountability Court judge Muhammad Bashir has given permanent exemption to Asif Ali Zardari from appearance in court in five corruption references. The court in its verdict said Asif Ali Zardari would have to appear before court on summoning. Farooq H Naek would appear in court to represent Zardari.
The counsel of Asif Zardari, Farooq H Naek filed two separate pleas in court asking court to grant exemption to Zardari from one day appearance and permanent appearance in five corruption cases.
Farooq H Naek said that his client was facing security threats and he should be granted exemption from court appearance, adding that the Supreme Court had allowed him (Naek) to represent Benazir Bhutto in cases against her as lawyer and as person. Naek asked the court to grant him same status in cases against Zardari. He said Zardari was not satisfied with the security provided by government on last hearing, adding 80 percent security was of Zardari’s own and government had provided 20 percent security. The NAB prosecutor did not oppose the pleas of Zardari. The NAB Prosecutor Chaudhry Riaz argued that if the exemption would not affect the trial then he has no objection on exemption. According to the verdict Zardari would enjoy exemption till the decision of the cases but court could summon him at any stage of the trial.
Earlier, the accountability court had reserved its decision over former president Asif Ali Zardari’s pleas seeking exemption from appearing before the court.
Another application seeking acquittal of Zardari in all NAB references was also filed in court.
Farooq said none of the references had evidences against Zardari, therefore, he should be acquitted. The court while adjourning the further hearing till the 3rd February has summoned the witnesses of NAB on next hearing of the case.
During the last hearing, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari appeared before accountability court amid tight security.
Speaking to media representatives after the hearing, Naek claimed that the polo reference against Zardari was only an allegation and that nothing could be proved. Naek said the court has issued notices to prosecution on his pleas. He said whenever the court will summon Asif Zardari would appear before the court. He said that these cases are 17 years old add nothing has been proved against Zardari. He said these are baseless allegations. He said Zardari was acquitted in cases which were decided by courts, adding that the courts will do justice in these cases too. He said that the courts will decide these cases as soon as possible and truth will come in front of masses.
The cases against Zardari contain charges of kickbacks and commission from SGS PSI Company for pre-shipment inspection, grant of a licence to ARY Gold causing losses to national exchequer, receipt of illegal gratification and commission in purchase of URSUS tractors under the Awami Tractor Scheme, illegal award of a contract to Cotecna for pre-shipment, possession of assets beyond means and receipt of kickbacks from Sajjad Ahmad, a former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills.
The Cotecna corruption reference was initially prepared by Saifur Rehman, the chairman of Ehtesab Bureau during the second government of Nawaz Sharif. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Zardari were the main accused and Nusrat Bhutto, former chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue A.R. Siddiqui and six directors of the Swiss company, Cotecna, were co-accused. Benazir Bhutto and Zardari had been accused of taking as kickback six per cent of the total value of $131 million pre-shipment contract awarded to the Swiss company.