KARACHI: Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani's lawyer completed his arguments before the Sindh High Court on Monday on the bail pleas filed by the accused in the case against Durrani and others pertaining to assets beyond income. A two-member bench, comprising Justice Omar Sial and Justice Zulfiqar Ali Sangi, sought arguments from the lawyers of Agha Masihuddin and other accused at the next hearing.
The National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) prosecutor maintained that NAB has investigated Durrani's income and assets from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other institutions. He said that the records of Durrani's agricultural lands and income are available from 1985 to 2008 while the details of Durrani's tax returns have also been obtained from revenue authorities.
"You still haven't been able to give a satisfactory response to our questions," remarked the bench while addressing the NAB prosecutor.
"What you have submitted in writing right now would only be comprehensible to the investigation officer (IO). How have you estimated the amount of one billion rupees?" remarked Justice Sial.
Durrani appears before NAB in assets beyond means case
The prosecutor replied that the amount was estimated on the basis of the price of gold and other valuables seized from Durrani's home. Expensive watches were also found in Durrani's lockers and the prices of those watches were determined with the assistance of Rolex [a luxury watches manufacturing company], he added.
Justice Sial asked when and from where these watches were bought.
"The statements of jewellers were also recorded. The jewellers confirmed the prices," said the IO.
"This would be the current price. How have you determined that this was the price in 1965?" asked the bench.
NAB officials submitted before the court the records provided by Durrani pertaining to the purchase of expensive watches and gold.
"Don't fool us. You yourself provide the script for what is written here," said Justice Sial. "You should stop getting such statements written. Those who don't know a single word of English, write entire statements in English [in the documents presented by NAB]. Do you take us for fools that you submit whatever you like," remarked Justice Sial. "You arrest whom you want to and let go whom you want to. Can the jeweller write this well in English?" he added.
The NAB prosecutor said that the bureau translates the statements in English. "We get written statements because the statements aren't taken forcibly," he maintained.
"And it is also true that you forcibly take statements," remarked Justice Sial. He asked NAB for the receipts of the purchase of gold and watches.
The prosecutor remarked that the cars and valuables found in Durrani's house were benaami assets.
The court inquired how it would be proved that those assets belong to Durrani and asked where the frontmen were.
The prosecutor maintained that NAB did call the frontmen but not all persons summoned appeared before NAB.
"You are NAB. You go to Islamabad to arrest people when you wish to. If they did not appear then why have you not pursued them?" asked Justice Sial.
NAB arrests two in illegal appointments case against Durrani
The NAB prosecutor replied, "We have named them as accused in the case. They are on the run, they will be traced."
Meanwhile, Durrani's lawyer maintained that the lands in question were ancestral lands and the assets belonged to all family members. He said that if Durrani understated the value of anything to avoid taxes, then that would be between the FBR and Durrani.
Durrani's counsel maintained that his client's ancestral lands have been in the family for around 250 years. There are separate 1,800 acres and 512 acres of lands and another 1,760 acres of land in Shikarpur, he said, adding that Durrani's grandfather owned a 1,000 square yard bungalow in Garden East in 1905. He maintained that Durrani was born rich. The defence counsel said that one of Durrani's wives owns 360 tolas of gold which has been declared. What NAB has stated about finding in the locker is less, he said.
The counsel argued that NAB issued a call-up notice to Durrani in the case of an illegal appointment and arrested him in the assets case.
The IO said that the assistant commissioner provided NAB with the records. This irked the bench and it remarked that if anyone has said an incorrect thing, then lock up the assistant commissioner. The bench asked the IO if whatever anyone submitted would be made part of their record.
Durrani's counsel maintained that the NAB did not bother to inquire what profits are generated from the lands.
"How would we know that they have lands? They did not tell us," said the IO. The court expressed further annoyance at this response and said that if this was his statement then he was not eligible to be an IO. The court asked how the IO determines which house to break into and who provides information regarding what is in people's houses. The bench asked the IO how he determines which house to raid.
The NAB prosecutor maintained that these documents weren't provided at the call-up notice at which the court remarked that it was NAB's responsibility to investigate.
The NAB officials maintained that they could not go after each person individually and had instead obtained records from the assistant commissioner.
"The conduct of you people raises several questions on NAB. Is your job just to make accusations? Is it not your duty to investigate?" remarked Justice Sial, directing his anger towards the IO. Justice Sial asked the IO to read the law and see what his responsibilities are. The court expressed annoyance with the NAB officials and told them to not lie before the court.
The bench asked the defence lawyer to assist the court in the case against former president Nawaz Sharif as well and remarked that the court made an important observation while reviewing the case.
The defence lawyer said that a raid was carried out at Durrani's house.
"We do not understand how the civil judge granted permission for the raid at Durrani's house," said the bench.
Durrani's lawyer maintained that his client was not running away. He prayed the court to take notice of the trial courts' behaviour which encourages NAB. Justice Sial asked him to approach the monitoring judge of NAB courts about this.
Durrani's lawyer completed his arguments and the bench adjourned the hearing till November 11 while seeking arguments from the lawyers of Agha Masihuddin and other accused.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2019.