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Friday June 21, 2024

‘Constitutional immunity’: Court suspends proceedings against President Zardari in Toshakhana case

Accountability court in Islamabad suspends proceedings against President Zardari until he remains in office

By Web Desk
May 07, 2024
President Asif Ali Zardari. — NNI/File
President Asif Ali Zardari. — NNI/File 

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday got constitutional immunity in the Toshakhana vehicle reference filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

According to details, an accountability court in Islamabad suspended the proceedings against President Zardari until he remains in office.

At the outset of today’s hearing, PPP's lawyer Farooq H Naik — counsel of President Zardari — appeared before the accountability court and filed a plea seeking to halt the court’s proceedings against his client.

“As per the law, Asif Zardari has presidential immunity. The case against Zardari cannot proceed as long as he remains in office,” argued the lawyer.

Approving his request, accountability court judge Justice Javed Rana halted the proceedings against the president in the Toshakhana case.

The development came a month after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), in a written reply submitted to the accountability court in the Toshakhana vehicle reference, requested to end the criminal proceedings against President Zardari, saying that he enjoys constitutional immunity.

It is pertinent to mention here that the NAB last month exonerated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif in the same vehicle reference.

The anti-graft body, in its report, had requested an accountability court in Islamabad to acquit the former premier.

The court may acquit Nawaz from the Toshakhana reference, the watchdog stated in its report submitted before the court that day, highlighting that the car in question was not a part of the Toshakhana at the time of purchase by the former prime minister.

According to the anti-corruption watchdog's findings, the Saudi government gifted a car to then-prime minister Nawaz in 1997 which he deposited in Toshakhana.

Later in 2008, the report mentioned, then-PM Yusuf Raza Gilani offered the PML-N supremo to buy the same car.

Therefore, Nawaz bought the car not from the Toshakhana, but from the federal transport pool, the report maintained, adding that the vehicle was not purchased using a fake bank account.

The case?

In March 2020, NAB filed the Toshakhana reference in an accountability court against the three political leaders.

Khawaja Anwar Majeed and Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majeed, the owners of the Omni group were also named as suspects in the reference.

According to the accountability bureau, former president Zardari and former premier Sharif obtained cars from the Toshakana by paying 15% of the price of the cars.

The bureau further alleged that former premier Gilani facilitated Zardari and Nawaz in this regard.

The reference filed by NAB alleges that Zardari was gifted luxury cars by the governments of Libya and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and he used them instead of submitting them to the Toshakhana.

The accountability watchdog claimed that former premier Nawaz was given a car from the Toshakhana by the PPP government in 2008 even though he did not hold any official position in the government.

NAB had requested the court to conduct a trial and sentence the accused to the strictest possible jail terms under the NAB Ordinance for their involvement in the corruption scam.

In May of the same year, the accountability court issued arrest warrants for former prime minister Nawaz after no one appeared on his behalf to represent him.

In September, of the same year, all three were declared proclaimed offenders in the case.

And in October 2020, the court ordered the confiscation of the property owned by Nawaz after he was declared an absconder in the case.