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October 15, 2020

Agha Siraj Durrani’s indictment deferred as two co-accused contract coronavirus

Karachi

October 15, 2020

An accountability court on Wednesday adjourned the indictment of Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and 18 others in a graft reference as it was told that two co-accused had caught coronavirus and could not make it to the hearing.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had in May 2019 filed a reference against the Sindh Assembly speaker, his spouse, children, brother and others for possessing assets worth around Rs1.6 billion allegedly made through illegal means.

NAB maintained that Durrani could not account for a difference of Rs1,610,669,528 between his declared total income from 1985 to 2018 and the assets, that included properties, vehicles and others valuables, in his, his family, dependants and benamidars’ names found during the investigation.

The anti-graft watchdog accused a total of 19 people, including Durrani’s wife Naheed, son Shahbaz, daughters Sanam, Sonya, Shahana and Sara, brother Agha Masihuddin, Zulfiqar Dahar, Shamshad Khatoon, Munawar Ali, Ghulam Murtaza, Muhammad Ifran, Shakeel Soomro, Gulbahar Baloch, Aslam Langah, Tufail Shah, Mitha Khan, Muhammad Shah and Gulzar Ahmed, of colluding with him in corruption.

At the outset of the hearing on Wednesday, the defence attorneys for Khatoon and Dahar told the accountability court-III judge that their clients had tested positive for COVID-19 and quarantined themselves until they were cured. The laywers pleaded the court to adjourn the hearing to a later date.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor opposed the plea, saying that the case had already faced a fair share of delays and the accused were making excuses to prolong it further. He asked the judge to turn down the request and proceed with the framing of charges so the trial could begin.

The judge, after listening to the arguments from both the sides, approved the defence’s request and fixed the indictment for November 4. The court directed all the parties to ensure their presence on the next hearing.

With the reference, the anti-graft watchdog has attached a list of 27 declared and undeclared assets, including properties, investments and vehicles, in Durrani and his family’s name and stated that they actually valued Rs479.4 million instead of Rs151.6 million, which was claimed by the accused.

Furthermore, NAB showed Durrani to be the beneficiary of seven benami properties, of which six were in DHA and one in Malir, worth over Rs1 billion, that were allegedly purchased in the name of his servants.

The bureau added that six of these properties were sold to different people while one was still in Durrani’s possession.

NAB maintained that Durrani had provided incomplete and partial details of his assets and income so the details were obtained from the Federal Board of Revenue and the Election Commission of Pakistan. It added that the total income of his family as declared in the FBR was Rs110.4 million; whereas, he himself had declared it to be Rs82 million through salary, agriculture, business, rental, bank and fishpond sources.

NAB said that Durrani after becoming the Sindh local bodies minister in the past and then the speaker accumulated assets and pecuniary resources through illegal means in connivance with the others named in the reference. It stated that the named persons had committed an offence of corruption as defined in the sections 9(a)(iii)(iv)(v)(xii) and 10 of the National Accountability Ordinance.