ISLAMABAD: The accountability court in the federal capital on Wednesday indicted Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for amassing assets beyond his known sources of income and directed the prosecution to produce witnesses and evidence.
Appearing before the accountability judge, Dar pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference filed against him on the orders of the Supreme Court in its July 28 judgment in Panamagate case.
It was closed-door hearing and only Dar, his counsel, a group of supporting lawyers, and federal State Minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, were allowed entry into the court. The main gate of the Federal Judicial Complex, where the court is located, was not opened to journalists.
Following the indictment, the court directed the prosecution to start producing witnesses and evidence in the case. Subsequently, two witnesses were summoned on the next date of hearing – October 4.
In the reference, NAB has alleged that Dar “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) as per investigation conducted so far”.
The reference said that Dar’s assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”. The country’s top graft-buster added that it has yet to determine the role of National Bank of Pakistan president and others over their alleged involvement in “aiding and abetting” the finance minister in making a 91-fold increase in his assets.
NAB had filed an ‘interim reference’ against Dar earlier this month. It informed the court on Wednesday that investigators were gathering details of Dar’s foreign assets, which would be included in the final reference.
NAB claimed that its investigations so far, proved that Dar’s assets did not match his known sources of income and that he refused to provide information in this regard. Therefore, he committed ‘corruption and corrupt practices’ as defined under the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999, it added.
At the outset of the hearing on Wednesday, Dar’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz contended that charges could not be framed before seven days of delivery of copies of case documents however, the court decided to go ahead with the indictment.
The court also dismissed Dar’s application for postponing the commencement of the trial till filing of the final reference. “Perusal of interim reference shows that it is final to the extent of certain things and charge will be framed on the basis of those alleged facts,” a court order said.
In his application, Dar’s counsel contended that interim reference on the basis of interim investigation report is filed with mala fide intention and that the role of alleged aiders and abettors is stated to be still under investigation.
He further stated that the prosecution intends to keep the matter pending with mala fide intention to keep improving upon its case for an indefinite period and to keep themselves able to fill lacunae.
Dismissing the application, the judge said: “Investigation in respect of those matters has been concluded, therefore, by trial on the basis of those alleged facts, the rights of the accused are not prejudiced in anyway.” Subsequently, “charge is framed to which accused pleaded not guilty,” the order read.
The court further stated that efforts will be made to fix the case on a day-to-day basis. It added that the prosecution is also directed to send notices of readiness to all the witnesses for recording their evidence in the court.