An accountability court of Islamabad on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrants against former president Asif Ali Zardari and started the process of declaring former premier Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender in a reference accusing them and ex-PM Yousuf Raza Gillani of receiving luxury vehicles and gifts from Toshakhana. As the court declares Nawaz proclaimed absconder, the political challenge for the PML-N has become intense.
A National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor submitted a compliance report to Accountability Judge Asghar Ali stating that the bureau forwarded arrest warrants against Sharif, who is in London, through the Foreign Office.
Observing that the PML-N supreme leader is not joining the trial proceedings intentionally, the judge issued directives for starting the process of declaring him a proclaimed offender over perpetual absence from the hearing.
Senator Farooq H Naek, who represented the PPP co-chairman, moved an application on behalf of his client requesting the court to grant him exemption from personal appearance in today’s hearing due to the coronavirus fears.
He said Zardari, being a senior citizen, can’t turn up because of the pandemic. This is a criminal case as Asif Zardari will have to show up, the judge observed, asking if the former president was diagnosed with the disease. The counsel replied that people will gather on the court premises because of the PPP leader’s appearance, putting not only themselves but him at potential risk of catching the contagion.
Prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar said it is up to the administration to prevent people from gathering, requesting the judge to not extend any concession to the former president and demanding his arrest warrants.
He said the court gave Yousuf Raza Gillani exemption from personal appearance, due to which his counsel has not even turned up before the court, pleading with the court to withdraw the exemption granted to him.
Farooq H Naek argued that the court can issue warrants in case Zardari doesn’t appear, assuring he will show up on next hearing. He said ex-PM Gillani had gone into self-isolation after being diagnosed with the virus.
court declares Nawaz proclaimed absconder: Toshakhana case
The NAB had filed a reference with the accountability court against the former heads of the state for not depositing luxury vehicles and valuable gifts received from the foreign leaders in the treasury.
NAB sources said that former president Asif Ali Zardari had only paid 15 per cent of the total cost of the vehicles received as gifts through fake accounts.
Zardari had received expensive cars as a gift from Libya and the UAE as president but did not deposit it in the Tosha Khana, the sources added.
Nawaz Sharif and Yousaf Raza Gillani had also received cars as a gift from different foreign leaders as prime ministers and used it themselves instead of depositing them in the treasury.
Owners of Omni Group, Khawaja Anwar Majeed and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed were also nominated as accused in the reference.
Nawaz left for London
It is important to note that the federal cabinet granted in-principle “conditional” approval to remove Nawaz’s name from the ECL. The government had asked the Sharif family to pay Rs.7 billion as surety bonds — equivalent to the fines imposed on him by an accountability court in two corruption cases Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Avenfield properties — in which he was convicted.
The PML-N leadership rejected the offer. While addressing a press conference after consultation meeting of senior party leaders in Lahore, Shehbaz Sharif said that the incumbent government of PTI wanted to take ransom from the Sharif family in the name of indemnity bond.
The Lahore High Court on Saturday (usually an off day) allowed former premier Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment, saying the duration could be extended based on medical reports.
A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem, started hearing the petition at 11 am and after multiple breaks and back and forth, delivered the verdict close to 6 pm.
In the court-approved undertaking, Nawaz assured that he would return “within four weeks” ─ a time frame that was missing in the initial handwritten undertaking.
court declares Nawaz proclaimed absconder: Nawaz went to London after signing a deal?
There is a growing perception that Nawaz Sharif went to London after signing a deal with the establishment. Those who suspect a deal point towards the past. If the history of Pakistan is any witness to help then it may be true. No politically powerful person in Pakistan’s history has ever been punished in a court of law; convictions even if obtained in lower courts are almost always overturned by superior courts. The system simply does not have the will to punish powerful people- they argue.