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June 11, 2019

Fake accounts case: Bail rejected, Zardari arrested

Top Story

June 11, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested former president Asif Ali Zardari from the Zardari House hours after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejected his and his sister Faryal Talpur’s plea for extension in their interim bail in the fake bank accounts scam.

Following the arrest of Asif Ali Zardari, he was shifted to NAB Rawalpindi office where doctors examined him and it is expected that he would be presented before the court for physical remand today (Tuesday).

The report of the medical check-up of Asif Ali Zardari is expected to be presented in the court today (Tuesday). Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari along with his sister Aseefa Bhutto Zardari saw him off from the Zardari House as the NAB team took him to the Rawalpindi office of NAB in Melody Market in a black Land Cruiser.

Though the plea for the bail of Faryal Talpur, the younger sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari, was also rejected, the NAB did not arrest her. Prior to the arrest of Asif Ali Zardari, police personnel, including female officials, had entered the Zardari House after the court decision and all roads leading to the residence were blocked by the police.

The roads adjacent to the Rawalpindi office of NAB were blocked after the shifting of Asif Ali Zardari to the Rawalpindi NAB. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari appealed to the party workers to remain calm and peaceful. “The people never accepted the controversial decisions of the judiciary,” he said.

He said that hanging and blasts had not bowed them down, then how these arrests could make them afraid. He said the PPP always proved its innocence in the courts of law. “Despite the partial judicial verdicts, the PPP believes in respect and supremacy of law,” he said.

Later on speaking to newsmen at the Parliament House after not being allowed to speak in the National Assembly, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said it was the second time that the MNA from Larkana was not allowed to speak in the National Assembly but two federal ministers — Fawad Chaudhry from Jehlum and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed from Rawalpindi — were allowed to speak. “I am being censored in the National Assembly,” he said.

After the rejection of the bail plea of Asif Ali Zardari by the IHC, the NAB sent an intimation letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar for the execution of arrest warrant.

Meanwhile, the PPP announced to challenge the IHC decision in the Supreme Court. Talking to the media, Sardar Latif Khosa said that NAB chairman overrode the judicial orders and issued the non-bailable warrants for Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur. "Till 2013, he had resigned from his company, he had no relation to the Zardari Group’s administrative, executive or financial affairs, and there are no fake accounts,” he said adding when he became the president, he stepped down from the directorship of the Zardari Group and this is in the records of SECP.

He said the Omni Group has acknowledged that and noted that it had opened different accounts and this [account] was the Omni Group's international account. "We already had the bail so the NAB warrants override the court orders. We were advised to go to the high court and so we asked to show us the order. This is based on ill intentions," he said.

Khosa further went to stress that Asif Ali Zardari “is a peaceful citizen of Pakistan and he voluntarily surrendered.” He said Asif Ali Zardari said that he was obligated to the law and if they wanted to arrest him, he will oblige and go with them. "The PPP has always respected the law," he said.

Earlier, a division bench of the Islamabad High court comprising Justice Aamir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani resumed hearing of former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur’s plea seeking extension in their interim bail in the fake bank account case.

After hearing the arguments, the Islamabad High court bench reserved its judgment and later while issuing the order, permitted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) authorities to carry out the arrest of Asif Zardari.

During the hearing, NAB prosecutor Jahanzeb Barwana argued in the court that Asif Ali Zardari doesn’t deserve bail. He said, “The bail before arrest can be granted in an extraordinary situation but the petitioner has presented no such ground”.

To this, Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek argued in the court that Asif Ali Zardari does not have any connection with the account of Omni group. He doesn’t even have any allegation of helping anyone for opening fake bank accounts. He said the Zardari group of companies only have allegation of receiving Rs1.5 billion in the account. “If the transaction is on record, how it could be suspicious,” he added.

Farooq Naek further argued that after filing the reference against Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, the NAB chairman doesn’t have authority to issue arrest warrants for both at this stage. After hearing the arguments of both sides, the IHC rejected the bail extension plea of Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur and allowed the NAB to arrest the former president.

Since March 28, Asif Ali Zardari got extension on his interim bail five times. Meanwhile, PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif demanded that production orders should be issued for former president Asif Ali Zardari.

Speaking in the National Assembly on Monday, Shahbaz Sharif said that former president Asif Ali Zardari has presented himself before the NAB on every occasion and there was no need for immediate arrest. The opposition leader said that Zardari never used delaying tactics and NAB should have appreciated this.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties protested in the National Assembly against the arrest of ex-president Asif Ali Zardari while demanding issuance of his production orders but top PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari could not get an opportunity to take the floor.

It happened for the second time that Bilawal could not speak on the floor of the National Assembly as earlier on the last day of session, which was prorogued on May 31, the PPP leader fell short of delivering his speech amid uproar in the House.

The members from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) surrounded the dais of the Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri who was chairing the proceedings of the House, asking him to give floor to Bilawal Bhutto who reached the Parliament House following the arrest of his father from his residence. However, the deputy speaker insisted that he had given floor to Shaikh Rashid Ahmed to speak on a point of personal explanation to earlier remarks of the opposition leader. “Let Shaikh Rashid speak for two minutes and then I will give time to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to express his views,” the deputy speaker said while warning the protesting parliamentarians that he would adjourn the House if they did not pay heed to his request.

Despite warning from the chair, the PPP members who later were joined by some PML-N parliamentarians did not return to their seats and continued raising slogans and arguing with the chair. But the deputy speaker said he would not succumb to their pressure, saying that he had already given the floor to the minister for railways.

Prior to giving floor to the minister for railways, the chair had given sufficient time to the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to respond to the opposition leader's speech. Seeing out of control situation in the House, the chair adjourned proceedings till Tuesday evening (today).

Former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, while informing the Speaker that the Islamabad Police and personnel of other institutions have surrounded residence of Asif Ali Zardari, asked him whether his office was apprised in advance about the arrest of the PPP leader. He regretted that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and some female parliamentarians of PPP were not allowed to speak and the House was prorogued abruptly.

During the proceedings, the PPP members staged a quiet walkout from the National Assembly but they soon changed minds and returned to the House to register their protest.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi maintained that the incumbent government believed in across-the-board accountability and that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should not be used for political witch-hunting.

“I reject in strong words the allegation that there is any link between the government and the NAB,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while responding to an earlier speech of the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif on floor of the National Assembly, said.

He said the government would not create hurdles in the way of transparent and independent accountability. “We believe that NAB should not be used for political witch hunting and it should carry out across-the-board accountability,” he said.

The foreign minister pointed out that cases against Asif Zardari were not initiated by the PTI government, rather the case in which he was arrested was three years old. “We have nothing to do with the arrest as the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which previously had accepted the bail on five occasions, rejected the same on Monday,” he said. The minister said it was the speaker’s office, which could issue production of a member of the House if he is arrested but it would not be appropriate to suspend proceedings of the House.

Interior Minister Ejaz Shah said his ministry had nothing to do with the arrest of Asif Ali Zardari, saying that case was being dealt by the NAB and his bail was cancelled by the Islamabad High Court (IHC). Bilawal Bhutto Zardari demanded the resignation of Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaisar and Deputy Speaker National Assembly for not allowing to speak in the National Assembly.

“I condemn the attitude of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker for not allowing me to speak in the National Assembly and demand their resignation for their partial attitude and failure of being custodian of the House,” he said while addressing a press conference here at the Zardari House just after he was not allowed to speak in the National Assembly.

During the press conference, Bilawal was accompanied by former prime ministers Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, Secretary General PPP Parliamentarians Farhatullah Babar, Secretary General PPP Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari and PPP Sindh President Nisar Khoro. Bilawal said the NAB did not produce any document but former president Asif Ali Zardari voluntarily gave his arrest in protest.

Bilawal said he was being censored in the National Assembly as it was the second time that he was not allowed to speak in the National Assembly while three federal ministers — Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi from Multan, Fawad Chaudhry from Jehlum and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed from Rawalpindi were allowed. “The MNA from Larkana was not allowed to speak in the National Assembly but the federal ministers,” he said, adding that that such discrimination wasn’t even seen in the assemblies of General Ziaul Haq and General (retd) Pervaiz Musharraf.

Bilawal said the political victimisation of the opposition was going on and the voices from Fata, Sindh and Balochistan that “This Naya Pakistan na Khappay.” “There was no difference between Naya Pakistan of Imran Khan and Pakistan of Ayub, Zia and Musharraf as that time there was no permission to speak and same is now as conspiracies were hatched to oust the chief justice and it was also going on now,” he said, adding that he wanted to ask the speaker to whom he was frightening with threats whose father spent 11-years in jail, whose grandfather was hanged, whose mother martyred in bomb blast, whose grandmother was tortured, whose one of uncles martyred through poison and other uncle was killed in target killing.

Bilawal said the media is facing censorship and those who did not toe the line, face repercussions as their interviews are not aired and woes of judiciary are not being discussed. "This doesn't happen in a democracy; this is not a democratic Pakistan. This is a censored Pakistan. This is only possible in a ‘Naya’ Pakistan where only the government's narrative can be published, aired or tweeted,” he said. He said the government is attacking the democratic and human rights and and this kind of attitude was not even adopted in the assemblies of Zia and Musharraf but that was happening in ‘Naya Pakistan”.

He said the government wanted “selected judiciary, selected opposition and selected media” and we know that the judiciary was also attacked by the government. “The pro-democracy judges were earlier also attacked and now it was again repeated,” he said.

Bilawal said this is a coward government as it tortured women, hatched conspiracies against the judiciary. “The coward government of puppets could not tolerate Asif Ali Zardari, Shahbaz Sharif, Asfandyar Wali Khan, Manzoor Pashteen,” he said. He said Imran Khan claimed in elections that he will make not two but one Pakistan but everyone has now seen that it was not one but two Pakistans.

To a question, Bilawal said he had said that the PPP would launch its “Awami Rabta Mohim” against price hike after Eid. When asked whether the PPP will launch the movement to dissolve the government, he said the PPP believes in democracy and it was the people’s right to change the government through their will.

“The PPP wants that the parliament should complete its tenure but the running the government is the responsibility of the government,” he said adding that the present government did not have any policy to govern.

A journalist asked him whether he sees any role of the establishment in the current situation, Bilawal responded while pointing out to the questioning journalist that, “It was a so innocent question. If I reply to this question but there is no TV show of your but the answer will play on your blog. The answer is easy that this government was formed by them and everyone knows the truth that the establishment was running all the affairs.

“The PPP always makes efforts for democracy and we have to convince that in the civilized world and democratic countries, the army is always on three places — borders, barracks and battlefields and in Pakistan’s history we have most time in dictatorship. There will be time for transition so that democracy be strengthened to get our rights and that was reason I am always saying that this parliament should also complete its tenure. I am not impatient.”

In a reply to another question, the PPP chairman said that this “Naya Pakistan” has turned into torment for people of Pakistan. “Though we wanted that this parliament should complete its tenure yet it seems that the government itself did not want that the parliament should complete its tenure,” he said. In a reply to a question, he said they have arrested Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif who are in jails and this government is ‘uncorrupt’, then why are people's pockets still empty. He said there are so many problems in this country, if one person or a single institution thinks that they can solve everything alone, which is wrong.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif inquired if there was any law for the “fake prime minister and his aides” after NAB arrested Asif Ali Zardari. Maryam Nawaz took to the Twitter and stated had law been equal for everyone and accountability unbiased, then the fake PM [read Imran Khan] would have been standing in the court along with his sister. By selectively arresting leaders of the opposition, fake PM can’t abscond from the reply that he has to tender at any cost.

Keeping the verbal onslaught up, Maryam went on to say that there exists a different version of law for whole Pakistan and while another for the fake PM, his family and those rich aides who are bearing his [read Imran Khan] expenses.

Meanwhile, the PTI termed the IHC decision regarding former president Asif Ali Zardari’s bail application justified and logical.

The ruling PTI’s Central Media Department, its Central Information Secretary Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, while commenting on the IHC’s decision, said that the Combined Investigation Team managed to bring into open a credible and irrefutable evidence in its report.

He noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan kept on saying that the House of Sharifs and ‘Zardari clan’ ruthlessly plundered the country and its resources for decades. “These corrupt elements are destined to be made accountable for their financial crimes and they will not go scot-free,” he maintained.

Meanwhile, PTI Senator Faisal Javed said the Islamabad High Court’s decision was a part of the ongoing legal process and the nation expected principled and bold decisions by the judiciary in order to nab corrupt elements.

The activists of PPP took the streets and held protest rallies in Lahore and Karachi as soon as the news of Zardari’s arrest reached there. They blocked different roads and chanted slogans against the government. PPP activists took out a rally from the Kennedy Market in Larkana after the news broke out that Asif Zardari had been arrested from Zardari House, Islamabad.

Some of the workers resorted to aerial firing due to which panic gripped the market and shopkeepers were forced to close down their shops. They marched towards the Jinnah Bagh roundabout where they held a protest and staged a sit-in blocking all types of vehicular traffic, which caused tremendous hardships for the commuters. They burnt tyres and shouted slogans.

In Naudero, PPP workers came out in the evening and forced shopkeepers to close down their businesses after sunset and resorted to aerial firing due to which shopkeepers were forced to close down their shops. They held a small protest at the Allahwalla Roundabout, burnt tyres and also chanted slogans against the arrest of their party’s leader.

PPP Youth and Sindh People’s Students Federation in Thatta held a protest demonstration against the arrest of Asif Zardari. The activists burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the federal government.

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