IHC dismisses Ishaq Dar’s plea challenging PO status, arrest warrants

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday dismissed a petition filed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar seeking suspension of the accountability court’s decision to declare him a proclaimed offender and issuance of arrests warrants against him.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Dar is accused of possessing assets disproportionate to his declared sources of income. A reference against him was filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case.

The division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, has upheld the accountability court’s order to declare him a proclaimed offender. The dismissal has also vacated the stay granted earlier.

Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb observed in the short order that it seems that Dar’s medical report was drafted on his wishes.

When Dar’s counsel stated that his client has the right to get treatment from a doctor of his choice, Justice Athar Minallah questioned if Dar does not have faith in local doctors. Pakistan has good medical facilities, the judge remarked further.

Earlier the IHC division bench had raised questions over the trial court’s orders against Dar and sought arguments to determine if the trial court exercised its discretion in accordance with law; whether orders are sustainable on the touchstone of reasonableness and if initiating proceedings against Dar were in consonance with law.

In response to an order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) through which it stayed proceedings before the trial court, special prosecutor of the country’s top graft-buster, Imran Shafique submitted a detailed reply in the IHC on Monday, in which the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accused the former minister Dar of playing ‘hide and seek’ with the accountability court conducting his trial in connection with a reference accusing Dar of amassing assets beyond means.

NAB said that the petitioner is bound to disclose his bonafide; which is miserably lacking in the current matter, therefore, the petitioner is debarred from invoking the jurisdiction of the IHC.

The anti-graft body accused Dar of being “guilty of playing hide and seek with the court of competent jurisdiction,” adding that the court was constrained to pass an order taking coercive measures against the accused and that “with such contumacious conduct” he cannot approach the IHC.

In the arguments stated in the petition, Shafique said that the last medical report was submitted by the accused on December 5, which is based upon the conclusion of the doctor regarding cardiac problems allegedly faced by the accused.

“Even if taken as gospel truth, and relied upon as sacrosanct, even then the report itself is sufficient to refute the petitioner’s stated cardiac problem,” Shafique stated.

While relying upon a medical report, NAB has concluded that Dar is not suffering from any disease which cannot be treated within the country; he has no major medical issue and life-threatening disease, neither is there any restriction on the movement and travel of the accused as suggested by him.

Shafique continued that Dar, through his counsel, has produced seven medical reports before the trial court and all medical reports, if put together, are not only inconsistent and contradictory, rather they are sufficient to expose the malafide intent of the “petitioner who in order to escape the court staged the drama of a serious heart problem”.

He took adjournments spreading over the period of 81 days (11 weeks and 03 days) from the last absence, said Shafique. Adding that the reports are blatantly violating laws of the country from which they have been produced.

In December last year, the IHC, after hearing Dar’s petitions against the accountability court’s order declaring him a proclaimed offender and issuing non-bailable arrest warrants for him, barred the accountability court from proceedings against the former finance minister till January 17, 2018.

Dar had been earlier declared a proclaimed offender by the accountability court due to his continuous absence from the proceedings.

The former finance minister has been in London since October last year owing to his medical treatment.

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 Rasheed 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”.

In November 2017, the government withdrew the portfolio of finance minister of Dar.