ISLAMABAD: An accountability court in Islamabad hearing the Park Lane reference has decided to indict former president Asif Ali Zardari via video link on July 6.
During today’s hearing, the indictment against the accused could not be filed and the court summoned him to appear before the bench. The court has also instructed the National Accountability Bureau to make arrangements for filling the charges.
Earlier this month, the court had deferred the reference till June 26, today.
During the last hearing, Zardari’s lawyer Farooq H Naik submitted exemption pleas on behalf of the former president and his sister Faryal Talpur from appearing before the court due to the prevalent coronavirus situation in the country.
To this Judge Azam Khan said that social distancing would be maintained in the courtroom.
Naik said that due to a large number of lawyers present in the courtroom, maintaining social distance would not be possible.
However, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor said that copies of the reference have been submitted and the court should charge the accused. He added that arrangements have been made for the video statement of Omni Group chief Anwar Majeed.
“Coronavirus has spread in the country and older people are likely to be more infected with the virus,” Naik told the court. “Both Zardari and his sister are over 60-years-old.”
In response, the accountability court said that if the accused could not appear, they can record their video statement.
To which, Majeed’s lawyer Latif Khosa maintained that despite the video statement, Majeed could not be charged, till the accused himself appears before the court.
However, the NAB prosecutor said that Majeed could be marked present if a judicial representative was present with him.
The NAB prosecutor further said that all the requirements have been met in the Park Lane case and that the date of the indictment should be fixed soon so that the trial can proceed.
The court then granted Zardari and Talpur exemption from appearing before the court and fixed June 26 for indictment and adjourned the hearing of the money laundering case till July 7.
Background of Park Lane case
Former president Zardari and his son and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto were summoned by NAB on December 13, 2018 in connection with Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, which had purchased 2460 kanals of prime land in Islamabad in March 2009.
In 2009, The News reported that a private company owned by Zardari and his son Bilawal Ali Zardari purchased 2,460 kanals of prime land in Islamabad in March 2009, valued at a CDA price of over Rs2 billion, at just Rs62 million. In a 1997 NAB case against Mr Zardari, the same land was associated with the former president but it was dropped then for lack of evidence.
According to the report, what Zardari was accused of in 1997, was completed years later, after a complex process of legal cases, suits and counter-suits between a person once alleged as “front-man” of Asif Ali Zardari, another person believed to be closely associated with the former president and a private company that was jointly owned by Zardari, Bilawal and a few others.
Referring to documents and legal papers, including the sale deed and court judgments given by the then PCO-led Islamabad High Court, The News report showed that a Karachi-based private company, Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, had purchased almost 2,500 kanals of land near Sangjani from Faisal Sakhi Butt, who himself purchased the land from a Pakistani American living in Houston, Texas in USA, named Muhammad Nasir Khan, for merely Rs62 million.
Nasir Khan was the original purchaser of this land in 1994 and was alleged by NAB in 1997 to be the front man of Mr Zardari in the Ehtesab Bureau reference filed against him in 1997.
However, all the legal requirement were met and followed in the purchase and transfer of this land from one man to another and then to Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, which was a Karachi based company. According to the Form-A Annual Return of the company, its share capital, as reflected in the SECP record then, showed it had 120,000 shares of which Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari own 30,000 shares each.
Zardari was shown as a director and his son was a member with four others who appear as members and debenture holders.