KARACHI: Former petroleum adviser Dr Asim Hussain might be inching closer to his freedom from jail as the Sindh High Court (SHC) reserved on Thursday its verdict on his applications for bail in connection with two remaining corruption references filed by the anti-graft watchdog.
A two-judge bench, comprising justices Muhammad Farooq Shah and Karim Khan Agha, reserved the order after hearing arguments from the lawyer representing Dr Asim and the special prosecutor of National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
In November last year, he was granted post-arrest bail in another case, relating to treatment and sheltering of alleged terrorists belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and gangs based in Lyari, registered by the Rangers.
The paramilitary force had taken Dr Asim into custody in August 2015 and he was handed over to the police following a three-month detention. Later, he was handed over for questioning to the NAB authorities, who has filed different corruption references against the former adviser.
On Thursday, Dr Asim’s lawyer, Anwar Mansoor Khan, pleaded for post-arrest bail in connection with two references. Firstly, the Rs460-billion corruption reference, pertaining to an alleged scam, in which gas was curtailed illegally to the agriculture sector to benefit a particular group associated with the fertiliser industry. NAB contends the price of fertilisers was arbitrarily inflated and Dr Asim received kickbacks in return. The second reference related to corruption worth Rs17 billion allegedly illegal contracts of five gas fields in Sindh to Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL).
Filing the first reference on February 25 last year, the investigators accused Dr Asim of involvement in land scam, public fraud and money laundering. The overall amount involved in this investigation is Rs462.5 billion.
Former petroleum and natural resources secretary Ejaz Chaudhry, former Karachi Docks Labour Board CEO Safdar Hussain, former Karachi Development Authority directors Syed Athar Hussain and Masood Haider Jaffery, and Ziauddin group finance director Abdul Hameed have also been named as co-accused.
Advocate Khan informed the judges that Dr Asim’s health condition was deteriorating in jail, where proper medical treatment facilities were not available. He added that the medical board, which had examined the petitioner, had recommended hydrotherapy for the former adviser.
The lawyer claimed his client was subjected to torture in Rangers’ custody, adding that he was currently under treatment at the National Institute of Cardio-Vascular Diseases. However, he needed proper treatment.
Opposing the request, NAB special prosecutor said the petitioner was being provided all the requisite medical treatment facilities in light of the recommendations made by the medical board.
The judges asked the prosecutor to satisfy the court on the point that an under-trial prisoner’s proper treatment was possible without releasing him.
The prosecutor replied that Dr Asim was being treated by health experts of his own choice.
At this stage, the judge inquired if Dr Asim intended to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Advocate Khan replied that his client did not intend to travel abroad as yet but he might be required to be treated outside of the country.
He recalled that another bench, while considering the former adviser’s health condition, had already granted him bail in a case relating to treatment and sheltering of alleged terrorists and gangsters. He pleaded for bail in the NAB reference on the same ground.
The proceedings took an interesting turn when the lawyer representing the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited also supported the request of Dr Asim’s lawyer for grant of bail.
After hearing the arguments, the judges reversed their order to be announced later.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2017.
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