ISLAMABAD: The fake accounts case against former president Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and others took a new turn on Monday when two other accused expressed their willingness in the accountability court to become approvers.
The case has been shifted to accountability court in Islamabad from Karachi on an appeal by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The matter is also being heard by the Supreme Court.
Zardari, Talpur and dozens of others accused appeared before the court amid tight security. As the onset of the hearing conducted by Accountability Court-II Judge Arshad Malik, accused Kiran Aman and Noreen Sultan told the court that they were ready to testify as witnesses.
They informed the court that they had approached the NAB chairman in this regard but the bureau named them as accused. They also pleaded to the court that they could not bear the expenditures to pursue their case.
The defence counsel opposed the request, saying that at this stage the accused women couldn't become approvers. A NAB representative told the court he would check whether a request had been filed. The court directed the women to file separate requests.
Also on Monday, Farooq H Naik and Latif Khosa submitted powers of attorney as legal counsels of Zardari and Talpur. Naik pleaded to the court that the trial would move smoothly if Zardari and Talpur were granted exemption from attendance.
The counsel contended that the lawyers were stopped from entering the court premises. If exemptions is granted, the police personnel would do any other duty rather than providing security, Naek contended. Khosa asked how could they assist the court if the lawyers face such problem.
The defence counsel also objected to investigation officer Muhammad Ali Abro's role in the case and stated that he was doing the same job with Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzafar Abbasi said that Abro was just assisting the prosecution.
The fake accounts case involves 30 accused. On Monday 14 of them, including Zardari and Talpur, appeared before the court while the remaining 16 remained absent. The court summoned the absent accused on April 12 and adjourned the next hearing until April 16.
Both Zardari and Talpur left the court without talking to journalists. However, senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Qamar Zaman Kaira and defence counsel Latif Khosa spoke to the media outside the court and lamented the transfer of the case to Islamabad.
Kaira said NAB was unprepared for Monday's hearing. "The accountability court has allowed NAB to investigate. Our counsel say they will review the evidence brought forward by the bureau," he said, adding that the transfer of the case was causing inconvenience for the accused and their counsel.
Kaira noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had repeatedly "prophesied" Zardari's arrest. "I want to ask if NAB is an authority independent of the government, then how could the prime minister and his ministers know about the bureau's probable arrests?" he said.
"Imran says if he it was up to him, some 50 people would be behind bars. He is the prime minister – his words hold value. He must have credible evidence to back his statements. It has been eight months since the government assumed charge but no such proof has been brought to light."
Kaira said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) rhetoric on corruption was only to divert attention from its incompetence, subpar performance and the common man's cries over the prevailing economic situation.
Khosa said that records, accused and witnesses in the case were all related to Sindh. "It is NAB's tyranny to get the case transferred. The power to transfer cases lies only with the Supreme Court– and it is done when there are death threats to the accused or the witnesses," he contended.
Separately, NAB on Monday filed another reference in the fake accounts. The reference against former secretary of Sindh Land Utilisation Department Atab Memon, Omni Group's Abdul Ghani Majeed and seven others is related to Pink Residency.
The reference stated that the accused allegedly regularised two plots in Gulistan-e-Joher in Karachi and caused a loss of Rs4 billion to the national kitty. It added that the amount against the two plots was made through the fake accounts.
The registrar office of the accountability court Islamabad had started scrutiny of the reference after which it would be sent to the relevant court. NAB, Rawalpindi, has asked people to avoid purchasing land from Pink Residency.