A day after his arrest, former president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was brought to an accountability court in Islamabad by a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) team that is seeking his physical remand.
Prior to his arrival at the court, a three-member team of the Polyclinic conducted a medical examination of the former president. According to the NAB sources, Zardari was found to be fit for physical remand.
The report was presented to the accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik in his chambers.
During the court proceedings, NAB requested 14-day physical remand of the PPP co-chairman, which was opposed by Zardari’s counsel Farooq H. Naek.
The accountability bureau provided evidence for Zardari’s arrest.
According to NAB, the former president made a plan to legitimise illegal income through transactions in fake accounts and had used frontmen and benamidars for money laundering.
The bureau said that there were eight solid grounds for Zardari’s arrest.
NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that prime facia, Zardari was involved in mega money laundering through fake accounts. He said that the former president was a beneficiary of fake accounts and added that the Omni Group was used for fake accounts.
He said that the suspect had been arrested and the bureau required remand in order to conduct investigations.
“First tell us, on what basis has Zardari been arrested,” said Justice Malik, to which the NAB prosecutor responded that he would read out the basis for Zardari’s arrest.
The former president also submitted a request for additional facilities in NAB lock-up. He asked for permission to keep one personal caretaker with him and for all medical facilities to be provided to him.
Zardari’s medical certificates were also presented in court. The accountability bureau informed the court that following the former president’s arrest, his medical examination was conducted. The NAB prosecutor said that Zardari was completely healthy and fit.
On Monday, a 15-member NAB team, accompanied by police personnel, had arrested Zardari from his residence in Islamabad after the cancellation of his pre-arrest bail by the Islamabad High Court in the fake bank accounts case.
A number of party workers as well as two of Zardari’s children — PPP Chairperson Bilawal and youngest daughter Aseefa — had seen the former president off as he left from Zardari House to the NAB Rawalpindi office in Islamabad in a black bulletproof vehicle.
The PPP co-chairman’s arrest had prompted a strong reaction from the opposition and sporadic protests by PPP workers in various parts of the country, mostly in the party-ruled Sindh province.
Terming his father’s arrest an act of “political victimisation” by the PTI government, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari while addressing a presser declared it a negation of Article 10-A of the Constitution that guaranteed the right of fair trial to every citizen, but appealed to party workers to remain calm and wait for party directives.
The main opposition PML-N had questioned the timing of the arrest, alleging that it had been done to divert public attention from the “IMF-prepared anti-people budget” that the government would present today.
The IHC bench had also cancelled the bail of Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur, a co-accused in the case, but she was not arrested as her warrants had not been issued, a NAB official told Dawn. He said Talpur would be arrested within a day or two.
On Monday, the IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani in a short order stated “for the reasons to be recorded later, instant petition is dismissed and ad-interim bail granted to the petitioner vide order dated March 28, 2019 is recalled”.
The same bench on March 28 had granted interim bail to Zardari, Talpur and others in the case related to transaction of Rs150 million to their private company through alleged fake bank accounts.
The case was originally registered with the Federal Investigation Agency and was filed before a banking court in Karachi. NAB later transferred this case to its Rawalpindi directorate.
The courtroom was packed with several key PPP leaders including former primer ministers Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Rehman Malik, Farhatullah Babar, Latif Khosa, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and representatives of the Peoples Lawyers Forum in attendance.
However, Zardari and Talpur had left the IHC just before the pronouncement of the order.
The judges had observed that non-appearance of the accused persons at the time of pronouncement of decision would be incorporated in the order sheet.
Farooq Naek, the counsel for Zardari, had argued that the alleged case was related to transactions of Rs14 billion through alleged fake accounts, but the prosecution conceded that Rs150 million transactions had been done in the name of Zardari Group.
Naek said Zardari and his sister both were leading sugar cane growers of the region and they sold their crops to Omni Group and in return received cash through banks. He said Rs150 million was in fact the payment for sugar cane that they had sold to the sugar mills owned by Omni Group.
Additional prosecutor general of NAB Jahanzeb Bharwana had said the anti-graft watchdog was investigating billions of rupees transactions through 28 bank accounts for which the investigation team required custody of the accused persons. He said the NAB chairman had already issued arrest warrants for Zardari.
After the court order, NAB had issued a letter to the National Assembly speaker informing him about the arrest of Zardari.