Ishaq Dar declared proclaimed offender after repeated no shows in court

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–Accountability court orders Dar’s surety-giver to submit Rs 5 million bail bonds within three days, warns of seizing senator’s assets

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing a graft reference against former finance minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Monday declared him a proclaimed offender (PO) for failing to appear before the court despite being summoned multiple times, dismissing his counsel’s plea to delay the process.

The court also ordered Dar to submit surety bonds within three days, adding that in case of failure, the authorities would seize his assets.

The court was expected to declare Dar, who is accused of possessing assets disproportionate to his declared sources of income, a PO during last Monday’s hearing as the deadline given to the former minister to appear before the court in connection with the reference filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the light of Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case had expired.

The former finance minister has consistently failed to appear before the court despite being summoned multiple times and has remained in London for some time now where he is said to be undergoing medical treatment.

As the hearing began, Dar’s counsel submitted his client’s fresh medical report in the court, requesting for delaying his declaration as a PO.

According to the medical report, Dar was suffering from chest pain and a minor issue in a coronary artery.

Defence lawyer Advocate Qausain Faisal Mufti told the court that his client could not appear in the court due to the medical condition as elaborated in the report.

NAB special prosecutor Imran Shafique rejected Mufti’s claims and declared that the former minister was not suffering from any medical issues because all of his medical reports presented in court differed from the other, urging the court to declare Dar a PO. Mufti responded, saying that the NAB had not yet verified the medical reports. He added that Dar was waiting for more reports.

Dar’s lawyer also said that the non-bailable arrest warrants issued by NAB were sent to the minister’s Lahore residence where he is not living at the moment.

The prosecution team said that the former minister was aware of court proceedings and there was no need to send warrants to London.

Also during the hearing, Qazi Misbah, a former deputy prosecutor general of NAB, appeared on behalf of Dar and requested the judge to be allowed to plead Dar’s case. However, the judge dismissed the request as Misbah is not a counsel in the case.

The court can also seize Dar’s surety bond of Rs5 million if his bail guarantor, Ahmad Ali Qudoosi, fails to assure the court of the senator’s appearance. Over Dar’s continuous absence in the case, the court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against him on Nov 14 and declared him an absconder on Nov 21.

Later, after a period of 10 days (instead of the usual 30), the court decided to begin the process of declaring Dar a proclaimed offender.

In a previous hearing of the case, the court had declared Dar an absconder and warned his guarantors of the confiscation of surety bonds worth Rs5 million if the accused did not join trial proceedings.

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.

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-e-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-e-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 also withdrew the portfolio of finance minister from Ishaq Dar.

IHC TO TAKE UP PETITION CHALLENGING ARREST WARRANT:

Dar’s counsel had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on December 2 challenging the arrest warrants against his client.

Dar has also challenged the court’s invocation of Section 17-C of the National Accountability Ordinance to curtail the mandatory 30-day period of the proclamation process to 10 days, on the pretext of the Supreme Court’s six-month deadline to wrap up the proceedings.