Pakistan: Zardari, Gilani indicted, Sharif declared an absconder

Islamabad: An accountability court of Islamabad today indicted Pakistan’s former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Toshakhana (state gift repository) corruption reference.

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The court also declared former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif an absconder in the case over his continuous absence from the proceeding.

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Pakistan’s anti-graft watchdog, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has filed a reference against former prime ministers, Yousuf Raza Gilani and Nawaz Sharif, ex-president Asif Ali Zardari and CEO of Omni Group, Khawaja Anwar Majid and his son Abdul Ghani Majid for misuse of the state gifts.

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In today’s hearing the court indicted the four accused (including Zardari, Gilani, Anwar Majid and Abdul Ghani Majid) present in the court, however, they pleaded not guilty. Gilani says never did anything against rules

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During the hearing, former PM Gilani took to the rostrum and addressed the AC judge saying he had never worked against the rules.

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“I approved the summary which was prepared as per the law,” Gilani told the court adding if the summary had been illegal, it would never have been moved.

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The AC judge Asghar Ali however asked him to raise that point during the trial proceedings. At this stage merits of the case are not under our consideration, said the judge.

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Nawaz properties’ details sought

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The court besides declaring former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proclaimed offender and issuing a perpetual warrant for his arrest over his continued absence from the proceeding also initiated the process for confiscation of his properties.

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The court directed the NAB officials to submit the details of Sharif’s properties in the next seven days.

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The court has also summoned NAB witnesses Waqar ul Hasan Shah, Zubair Siddiqui, and Imran Zafar for the next hearing on Sept 24.

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Zardari denies charges

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Meanwhile, former president Asif Ali Zardari, when asked by the media at the time of hearing about the charges framed by the NAB against him, said he had faced such allegations in the past.

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“I have been declared clean earlier and will be declared clean again this time,” claimed the former president. To a question about the court declaring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif a fugitive, Asif Ali Zardari said he could not say anything about the former prime minister however, he said such things happen in such situations.

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What is Toshakhana reference?

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In March, this year the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a reference with the Accountability Court against the accused on the alleged violation of the rules of the Toshakhana (state gift repository) which it argued had caused a heavy loss to the national exchequer.

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NAB alleges that Yousuf Raza Gillani, in order to extend illegal benefits to the accused Omni Group CEO Khawaja Anwar Majid and his son Abdul Ghani Majid allowed them to keep luxury vehicles gifted by foreign dignitaries by relaxing the procedures governing their use.

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The anti-graft body also accuses Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari for retaining the vehicles in question “against a nominal payment of 15% of their total value”.

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