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March 2, 2019

Durrani’s NAB remand extended till March 11

Karachi

March 2, 2019

An accountability court extended on Friday physical remand of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau till March 11 in a corruption case.

The administrative judge of accountability courts directed the anti-graft watchdog to file a progress report at the next hearing. According to NAB, Durrani is being interrogated for alleged embezzlement of funds, illegal appointments and holding assets beyond recognizable income.

The extension of remand was heavily argued in the courtroom as the defence counsel for Durrani opposed it, contending that his client was being coerced into signing confession as NAB had no evidence to support its allegations.

The NAB investigation officer told the court that Durrani was required to be questioned on several benami properties. He said that the properties had allegedly been purchased in the names of the suspect’s family members and alleged front men.

He added that Durrani’s alleged front man, Gulzar Ahmed, was holding around Rs860 million in his bank accounts and he had gone underground to prevent arrest. He said that the suspect was also not cooperating with the investigators as he would go to assembly every day.

The IO said that NAB was also summoning people in whose names the pay orders and cheques had been made to purchase those properties. He added that Durrani’s brother had also been served a notice to appear for the inquiry.

The defence counsel argued that NAB had made a case of assets beyond income and had been provided with the required documents, including money trails; therefore, it could no longer keep the suspect in its custody. He added that NAB was playing tactics to pressurise his client.

Durrani told the court that he was cooperating with with the bureau. In response to the argument of going to the assembly, he said he was innocent until proven guilty and so could attend sessions of the assembly.

He also said that NAB was trying to put pressure on him through harassing his family and putting him in an isolated room where there was no window. He asked if NAB wanted him to withdraw from his speakership. Responding to that, the IO said Durrani was being given all facilities.

The judge after listening to the arguments from both sides gave NAB the custody of the suspect for 10 more days with the direction to the defence to cooperate in the investigation and to the prosecution to file a progress report in the meantime.

Durrani, a leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, was arrested by the anti-graft watchdog on February 20 in Islamabad after a warrant was issued by NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal.

NAB told the court that Durrani in his current capacity as speaker and formerly as Sindh minister for local bodies committed offences of corruption and corrupt practices as defined in Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance.

The section reads that if the holder of a public office, or any other person, or any of his dependent(s) or benamidar owns, possesses, or has acquired right or title in any assets or holds irrevocable power of attorney in respect of any asset or pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income, which he cannot reasonably account for or maintains a standard of living beyond that which is commensurate with sources of income.

According to the bureau, the income declared by the suspect from 1985 till June 2018 is Rs84,426,978, whereas the declared properties and other assets in his name as well as in his family members’ value Rs269,004,026. “[Durrani] has assets disproportionate to his known sources of income which attracts offence of corruption and corrupt practices.”

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