Tough days are ahead for Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s alleged former media coordinator Khurram Rasool Butt. The now infamous man was handed down three different verdicts by three different courts on Thursday.
An accountability court in Rawalpindi sentenced Rasool to three years imprisonment for being absent from court proceedings in a corruption reference filed in 2009 after Rasool defaulted on a bank loan.
Accountability Court-III Judge Jahandar Khan Banth handed down the verdict under Section 31-A of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance. The trial judge while also deciding the fate of four other accused, who are all employees of a private bank, handed four-year jail term to each of the accused. The men are accused in a scam in which Rasool obtained a loan of Rs70 million from the bank using fake documents and later defaulted on the loan.
The court further directed Aamir Mumtaz, Muhammad Tariq, Hasnain Haider and Rehan Sheikh – the convicted employees of NIB Bank – to pay a fine of Rs400,000 each, adding that a default on the fine would result in them serving another six months sentence.
On January 26, 2011, the court cancelled Rasool’s bail bonds over his continuous absence in the case. Rasool, who had reportedly gone abroad, then approached the Islamabad High Court which, on February 2, 2011, dismissed his plea for protective bail and directed him to approach the trial court. But Rasool did not approach the trial court. On April 28, 2011, the trial court declared Rasool a proclaimed offender for his absence from proceedings.
Rasool’s counsel Qausain Faisal Mufti told The Express Tribune that his client had already paid Rs63million of his Rs70 million loan, adding that his client would appeal the accountability court’s decision.
Interim bail granted, protective bail denied
Meanwhile, a special court for banking offences granted interim bail to Rasool, hours after a division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) denied him protective bail.
On Thursday, the banking court judge Muhammad Amjad Pervaiz granted interim pre-arrest bail to Rasool till February 2 subject to furnishing of bail bonds worth Rs1 million. The judge also summoned case record from the FIA on the next hearing.
Rasool submitted an application before the banking court, saying he was in need of more time to defend himself against the allegations levelled against him, praying the court to grant him interim bail.
Earlier, a division bench of the LHC headed by Justice Sheikh Najamul Hassan dismissed Rasool’s petition for protective bail while hearing the liquid petroleum gas (LPG) quota fraud case as he was not present in person for the court proceedings. Advocate Noor Muhammad Jaspal represented the accused and pressed the bench to grant protective bail to his client.
Advocate Jaspal said that the accused could not appear before the court as NAB officials would arrest him. In reply to counsel’s position, Justice Hassan said, “You should know that in such cases, personal appearance of petitioner/accused is mandatory.”
The court also said that protective bail could not be granted to Rasool without obtaining NAB’s stance on the issue. Subsequently, the LHC directed that officials from NAB should appear before the court.
Plethora of cases
The former media coordinator for the prime minister apparently had his fingers in more than just one pie during his short-lived stint as a government official. He is the prime accused in a multimillion rupee liquid petroleum gas (LPG) quota fraud case and has been facing arrest as the Supreme Court had ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to arrest him by Jan 27 (today).
According to a petition moved in December 2010, Rasool as media coordinator to the prime minister on Northern Pakistan Television had allegedly deceitfully and fraudulently minted over Rs630 million by providing assurances to the petitioner that he would manage a Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) quota and licence for oil supplies to Nato forces stationed in Afghanistan.
… surrenders before FIA
Khurram Rasool is said to have surrendered before the FIA in a late night development in Islamabad, according to television reports.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2012.