KARACHI: The administrative judge of the accountability court sent on Friday the Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani to jail on judicial remand till April 26 in the inquiry pertaining to owning assets beyond declared income.
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials presented Durrani before the court. The investigation officer (IO) requested physical remand for another 15 days. The IO informed the court that two of the accused in the case have acquired pre-arrest bails. One of them, Gulzar, is Durrani's right hand man and the two accused need to be identified by Durrani. The IO sought another 15-day remand, claiming it was for the last time.
The counsel for the Sindh Assembly speaker, Amir Naqvi, argued that the NAB did not have any evidence, besides claiming that the Sindh High Court (SHC) had declared the investigation to be baseless.
NAB granted eight-day physical remand of Agha Siraj Durrani
The IO maintained that the investigation was progressing and the references would be filed once the investigation was complete.
The court remarked that the last extension in remand was given for the same reason. The court expressed its annoyance with the IO for not acting upon the directives given by the court. "The investigation stands right where it stood 15 days ago," said the court.
The court was informed that the NAB had changed the IO dealing with Durrani's case. At this, the court remarked that it was the NAB's responsibility or the previous IO's responsibility to inform the current IO of judicial orders. "It is not the court's job to inform you," said the court.
Durrani's counsel opposed the request for judicial remand. Naqvi argued that an 11-day remand had been given in the previous hearing which was said to be the last time. The counsel maintained that NAB had not issued the call-up notice as yet.
"Where is the call-up notice?" inquired the court.
The court expressed its annoyance over the lack of progress in the investigation. The IO maintained that the investigation could not be completed, which was why another extension in the remand was being sought.
The court sent Durrani to jail for judicial remand and directed the IO to submit the reference in the next hearing.
NAB issued notice
Meanwhile, the SHC issued notice to the NAB on Friday after hearing the bail plea of Agha Siraj Durrani. A two-member bench headed by SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh and comprising Justice Omar Sial heard Durrani's petition seeking bail, and challenging his arrest in the corruption inquiries against him. The court directed the NAB to submit its reply by April 24.
'Assets beyond means' land Sindh Assembly speaker in NAB custody
Durrani pleaded that his arrest was illegal and in violation of the law. He said that the NAB had summoned him to Islamabad on February 25 through a call-up notice issued on February 18. The arrest warrant was issued by the NAB chairperson on Feb 19 and he was arrested on Feb 20 in Islamabad. "I was arrested for political victimisation," said Durrani.
The petitioner said that NAB had sought his remand again but had failed to provide an explanation for it. NAB had not presented any evidence against him either.
Durrani requested the court to release him on bail and abrogate the NAB inquiry against him.
The hearing was adjourned till April 24. NAB's investigation against Durrani includes alleged embezzlement of public funds and illegal appointments in government departments. The Sindh Assembly speaker was arrested from Islamabad by NAB in February 2019.
*with additional reporting from PPI
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2019.