–Judge declares finance minister ‘an absconder’, gives surety-giver until Dec 4 to present Dar in court
ISLAMABAD: The accountability court on Wednesday posted a notice to summon Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on the court’s notice board, as it began the process to declare the finance minister a ‘proclaimed offender’ in a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference case pertaining to Dar amassing assets beyond his known means of income.
Declaring Dar an absconder, the notice, bearing the signatures of Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir, has asked the finance minister to appear before the accountability court in 10 days. It further said that if the finance minister failed to appear before the court within 10 days he will be declared a proclaimed offender.
Meanwhwile, Dar’s surety-giver Ahmad Ali Quddusi appeared before the court and argued why the surety bonds should not be confiscated.
Dar’s surety-giver had last week requested the court to grant him three weeks to bring the finance minister before the court after the judge issued a show-cause notice to Quddusi.
The accountability court has initiated proclamation proceedings against Dar over repeated failure to appear before the court.
Declaring Dar ‘absconder’, Judge Bashir ordered NAB to initiate proceedings under Section 87 of the Criminal Procedure Code and submit a report within 10 days.
The 10-day period will expire on December 4, which is when the next hearing of the case will be held. The court is likely to declare Dar a proclaimed offender on the same day.
The hearing on Wednesday commenced after a delay of around two hours because neither Dar’s guarantor nor his lawyer had arrived at the scheduled time.
Quddusi filed an application in the court, requesting more time to present the accused. Accepting his plea, the court allowed him time until December 4 to present Dar. Failing this deadline, the guarantor’s surety bonds may be confiscated.
NAB Special Prosecutor Imran Shafiq opposed Quddusi’s application, saying the guarantor had already been given ample time to present the accused. Since he has failed to present Dar, his surety bonds of Rs5m should be confiscated.
However, the court decided to give an extension to the guarantor to present the accused.
The noose seems to be tightening further around the former finance minister after NAB decided to reopen the Rs1.2 billion Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference against him earlier this month.
The Hudaibiya reference will be the second ‘mega-corruption’ case against Dar being investigated by NAB, after the reference filed against him in the wake of the Panama Papers case judgement.
The reopening of the case was recommended by the joint investigation team formed by the apex court to probe the Panama Papers allegations against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.
On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
In its reference against the finance minister, NAB alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependents of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.
The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.
The government last week withdrew the portfolio of finance minister from Ishaq Dar.