News Analysis |
Ishaq Dar, Pakistan’s finance minister, sitting in London, termed National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s plea to reopen the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case as illogical and against the law.
According to sources, Dar made these comments on Thursday while responding to NAB’s appeal against Lahore High Court order to quash an investigation into the Rs1.2 billion Hudabiya Paper Mills scam against the Sharif family.
He said that considering the LHC previously ruled in his favor and even the SC had not ordered the concerned authorities to start the investigation anew, NAB’s request is incomprehensible.
Dar’s role in Hudaibiya Paper Mills case
Ishaq Dar’s confessional statement made on April 25th, 2000 became the basis of the initiation of Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering case. Dar admitted to his role in laundering $14.86 million of the Sharif’s money through fictitious accounts.
While Nawaz Sharif was not named in the interim reference filed in March 2000, in the final reference against the Hudaibya Paper Mills — approved by then chairman NAB Khalid Maqbool — the bureau had accused Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz.
Dar was, however, pardoned by NAB chairman at the time and neither Musharraf’s regime nor PPP’s government took measures to ensure the conclusion of these references. On March 11, 2014, Lahore High Court referee judge Justice Sardar Shamim quashed the reference on the grounds that if a re-investigation were allowed against the Sharif family, it would provide an opportunity for investigators to fill in the gaps.
In 2014, NAB decided not to challenge the high court’s decision. However, soon after the Panama verdict, NAB appealed to the apex court against the Lahore High Court’s 2014 decision to acquit Nawaz Sharif and several members of his family in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case “in the interest of justice, fair play and equity” and urged to declare the LHC judgment void and illegal.
NAB took the stance that when the Panamagate joint investigating team (JIT) formed to probe corruption allegations against the Sharif family in the long-drawn case had collected further incriminating evidence relating to Hudaibiya Paper Mills, “NAB cannot be debarred/restrained from proceeding further with the investigation.” NAB also stated that the JIT had recommended that the Hudaibiya Paper Mills Case should be reopened.
The plea is still pending in Supreme Court.
Read more: Has Sharif family abandoned Ishaq Dar?
Noose tightening around Ishaq Dar
Meanwhile, on November 14, the accountability court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in addition to issuing a show-cause notice to his surety giver.
Dar’s counsel informed the accountability court on Tuesday that Dar will not be able to appear in front of the court for another six weeks, and a petition for a pleader who shall appear on his behalf has been filed. Khawaja Haris, Dar’s counsel, requested the court to let Faisal Mufti advocate appear on behalf of Dar during his absence.
However, judge of the anti-graft court refused to accept the stance of Dar’s counsel and issued the non-bailable arrest warrant for the Finance Minister.
Dar’s deteriorating relationship with current premier?
According to a government official, who requested not to be named, almost two weeks ago, Ishaq Dar requested Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s permission to attend an economic conference in a Central Asian country. After getting the green signal, Ishaq Dar used the Prime Minister’s protocol to reach the airport, from where he embarked for Central Asia. Instead of returning to Pakistan, Dar landed in a London hospital.
Dar left the country despite the fact that he had already been indicted and the court hearings against him were pending. Moreover, Dar did not take permission from the court before leaving the country.
Dar is in the midst of real trouble according to people closely following the developments in the case. It is also noteworthy to mention that the party’s singular focus on defending Nawaz Sharif has resulted in lackluster support for Dar. Watchers believe that he is fighting the battle alone. While Nawaz Sharif has seemingly rolled his sleeves for a showdown, it would be interesting to see how Dar exonerates himself, that too without much support.
Read more: Ishaq Dar: Difficult times ahead..?
Reportedly, Dar’s actions have further strained his relations with PM Abbasi who, according to sources, wants Dar removed from his position as a Finance Minister, but has so far not done so due to Nawaz Sharif’s pressure.