The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani on Friday in a case related to assets beyond means and on embezzlement charges after the Supreme Court told him to surrender to the country’s premier graft buster.
The apex court’s order came on a bail application filed by Durrani. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader had moved the court after the Sindh High Court (SHC) had rejected his bail plea. Durrani appeared in person before a three-member bench, led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, for the hearing.
The court said that when Durrani had not surrendered to NAB after the rejection of his bail plea by the SHC, then how he could seek the post-arrest bail from the Supreme Court. The bench said once he turned himself in to NAB, only then would the court take up his plea.
Durrani’s lawyer told the bench that his client had surrendered before the court. He requested the bench to allow his client to surrender before the trial court. However, the bench turned down his request.
Justice Bandial said the court could not order Durrani’s surrender before the trial court. “We must abide by the law,” the judge said. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah told the PPP leader to surrender to NAB first. “If you surrender, the case will be fixed for a hearing next week,” he assured.
The hearing was conducted at about 11 am, during which the court granted bail to co-accused Zulfiqar Ali and Shamshad Akhtar. However, Durrani waited for the court order till 3 pm. A NAB team also reached the apex court and waited for Durrani to come out of the court.
When Agha Siraj Durrani left the court after receiving the order, NAB officials arrested him and transferred him to the NAB office. In short conversation with reporters during his arrest, Durrani said that he had been arrested in a false case before, and that he was not afraid of the arrests.
"I am not afraid of the arrest. I have been arrested in false cases before," he said. “When NAB arrested me for the first time, the NAB's attitude towards me was not good,” he added. He also said: “When an assembly member is arrested, the speaker is informed. But there is no such law for speaker’s arrest.”
The country’s premier graft buster arrested Durrani on charges of assets beyond means and embezzlement. The NAB Regional Board had recommended an investigation against him over alleged embezzlement of funds in the MPA Hostel project.
Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the arrest of the provincial speaker, saying that Durrani was being punished for being a true democratic activist of the PPP. He alleged that NAB had become a tool in the hands of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
“We will not tolerate this oppression,” the PPP chief said, according to a statement issued by the Media Cell of the Bilawal House. Bilawal added that accountability was a democratic process but victimisation under the guise of accountability would be disastrous for democracy.
The PPP chairman warned that because of the intervention of NAB, not only the economic activities in the country had come to a standstill but also the administrative bodies have not been able to play their active role.
(WITH INPUT FROM OUR KARACHI CORRESPONDENT)
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