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ISLAMABAD: The accountability court hearing a corruption reference against former finance minister Ishaq Dar will announce its decision today on whether to declare Dar a proclaimed offender due to his continued absence.
Earlier today, as the hearing went under way, Dar’s counsel submitted to the court his client’s medical report.
Dar, a serving Senator, is accused of owning assets which are disproportionate to his declared sources of income. He has skipped the five hearings of the case owing to his medical treatment in London.
Over Dar’s continuous absence in the case, which was filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case, the court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against him on November 14 and declared him an absconder during on November 21.
Later, after a period of 10 days (instead of the usual 30), the court declared Dar a proclaimed offender. Today, this issue was raised before the court by Dar’s legal counsel Qusain Faisal Mufti.
“A suspect is declared a proclaimed offender after a period of 30 days,” pointed out Qusain. To this, Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir remarked: “You still got 15 days.”
Qusain argued that it is incorrect to assume that Dar is in hiding, adding that court should give some time to the senator. He also claimed that Dar never received the court summons at his London address, which is declared in the court documents.
The judge observed that the court, in an unusual instance, has given Dar about three weeks.
Qusain then said that NAB didn’t even verify the medical report of Dar. Responding to this, the judge remarked that if Dar was getting treatment in Pakistan then a medical board could’ve been constituted. “A medical board can still be constituted,” replied Qusain.
Dar’s medical report shows that he has chest pain, said Qusain, adding that the former finance minister’s arteries have constricted by 35 per cent to 50 per cent.
A medical examination of Dar will be held next week, Qusain remarked further, stating the court should give his client more time. “If the medical board wants, it can conduct a medical examination of Dar at Pakistan High Commission in London.”
Dar’s counsel requested the court to delay declaring his client a proclaimed offender, stating that Dar never said he does not want to appear in court and is only inhibited from doing so by his medical condition. However, the NAB prosecutor opposed the plea and urged the court to declare Dar a proclaimed offender today.
The judge then reserved his decision on the matter and will announce it later today.
Dar challenges arrest warrant
Last week, Dar’s legal counsel, Qusain Faisal Mufti, had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging the arrest warrants against Dar.
Dar also sought exemption from appearing before the court on account of his ongoing treatment in London.
Dar has also challenged the court’s invocation of Section 17-C of the National Accountability Ordinance to curtail the mandatory 30-day period of the proclamation process to 10 days, on the pretext of the Supreme Court’s six-month deadline to wrap up the proceedings.
The IHC is yet to take up the petition.
Dar declared proclaimed offender
On November 21, Dar’s continuous absence from the accountability court resulted in the initiation of the process to declare him a proclaimed offender. During the hearing, Mufti submitted the senator’s third medical report and pleaded the judge to grant his client exemption from appearance. The medical report stated that one of Dar’s arteries is not functioning properly and the minister will have another medical checkup on November 29.
The counsel also requested the court appoint a legal representative (pleader) on the minister’s behalf so the proceedings can continue
However, NAB prosecutor Imran Shafique opposed the plea and requested the court to begin the procedure of declaring Dar a proclaimed offender due to his continuous absence.
The court also issued a notice to Dar’s bail guarantor, Ahmad Ali Qudoosi, asking him to submit a written response on November 24 on why Dar’s surety bond of Rs5 million should not be confiscated.
Dar relieved of finance ministry duties
On November 23, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi accepted Dar’s request to be relieved of his duties, reported Geo News. Dar was relieved of his three roles, including his portfolio in the finance ministry, and was informed of the decision.
The matter and the contents of the letter, earlier sent by Dar, were also discussed by the premier with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said sources.
He would remain a federal minister and a leave of absence of three months has been granted to Dar.