An accountability court exempted former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani from appearing before the court in the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) graft case on Tuesday.
Ogra chairman Tauqeer Sadiq is accused of involvement in the Rs76.6 billion scam while Gilani is facing the charge of making an illegal appointment in the regulatory body.
On November 25, 2012, the apex court struck down the appointment of Sadiq, who fled to the UAE, where he was taken into custody and brought back to Pakistan by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials.
During the last hearing, the court had summoned former premiers Gilani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, stock market tycoon Aqeel Karim Dhedhi and Sadiq. And on Tuesday when the court resumed the hearing, all were present.
NAB had earlier submitted two separate references against the four men. The first reference is related to the illegal appointment of Sadiq as chairman during Gilani’s tenure as prime minister and Ashraf as minister for water and power at the time.
The major development regarding the first reference on Tuesday was that Gilani’s counsel Amjad Iqbal Qureshi submitted an application requesting the court to exempt his client’s personal appearance. He maintained that as his client was the former prime minister, it is difficult for him to appear before the court on a regular basis as he is facing security threats.
The court accepted his application and granted him exemption, adjourning the matter till March 5.
The second reference names former Ogra members Mansoor Muzaffar Ali and Mir Kamal Mari, finance official Jawad Jameel, former staff officer Dewan Ziaur Rehman Farooqi, former Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) managing director Abdur Rashid Lone, and former Ogra staffers Zohair Siddique, Azeem Iqbal Siddique, Syed Arsalan Iqbal, Mirza Mehmood Ahmed and Yousaf J Ansari as the accused.
A senior court official told The Express Tribune that all the accused appeared before the court, except former staff officer Dewan Ziaur Rehman Farooqi, who has yet to make an appearance. The court will frame charges against the accused after he comes to court, the official added.
During the proceedings, a large number of PPP supporters were present outside the court to support and cheer on the former premiers. The supporters shouted slogans in favour of Gilani and Ashraf.
The police beefed up security both outside and around the court. Talking to the media, Gilani said that he respected the judiciary and so he always appeared in court. “I will appear before the court whenever it summons me.’’
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2014.
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