ISLAMABAD: An accountability court in Islamabad indicted former president Asif Ali Zardari in the Park Lane reference today (Monday) via video link.
The accountability judge had directed authorities to ensure that the accused present himself for the hearing today. Zardari appeared before the court for today’s hearing via video link from his Bilawal House residence in Karachi.
Other suspects in the case also attended proceedings of the case via video link. Zardari told the court that his lawyer, Naek, was busy in court hence he could not be indicted today.
“Your lawyer knew beforehand about the date of today’s hearing,” responded the judge. “You will be indicted (today).”
The accountability court judge said that Zardari’s lawyer could have sent his assistant lawyer to attend today’s hearing. “These are just two simple sentences in English, you can listen to them and answer,” said the judge.
Zardari requested the judge to write in his order that the charges were framed against him whilst his lawyer was not present in court.
“Charges are always framed against the suspect. If his or her lawyer does not present himself before the court, we cannot force [the lawyer] to do so,” replied the judge.
The judge then proceeded to read out the charges against Zardari. The former president pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Court rejects Zardari’s petitions
A few days ago, the accountability had rejected the former president’s petitions and directed that the PPP leader be indicted on August 10.
The former president’s indictment was postponed due to various petitions filed by his lawyer against the reference.
In June, Zardari’s lawyer had moved a petition challenging the accountability court’s jurisdiction to hear the Park Lane reference. Zardari’s lawyer Farook H Naek had requested the court to decide the petition before the trial began.
NAB’s Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi had opposed the petition and requested the court to dismiss it as being baseless.
Park Lane reference
A report showed that a Karachi-based private company, Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, had purchased almost 2,500 kanals of land near Sangjani from Faisal Sakhi Butt, who himself purchased the land from a Pakistani American living in Houston, Texas in the USA, named Muhammad Nasir Khan, for merely Rs62 million.
Nasir Khan was the original purchaser of this land in 1994 and was alleged by NAB in 1997 to be Zardari’s frontman in the Ehtesab Bureau reference filed against him in 1997.
However, all the legal requirements were met and followed in the purchase and transfer of this land from one man to another and then to Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, which was a Karachi-based company.
According to the Form-A Annual Return of the company, its share capital, as reflected in the SECP record then, showed it had 120,000 shares of which Zardari and Bilawal own 30,000 shares each.
Zardari was shown as a director and his son was a member with four others who appear as members and debenture holders.
In 1997 the Ehtesab Bureau of Mian Saifur Rehman initiated a case against Zardari while the FIA arrested some persons related to the same case. Media reports in 1997 had then stated that Zardari had forcibly acquired the 2,500 kanals of land uprooting 300 families to set up a polo ground and a riding pavilion in Sangjani, 25 minutes from Islamabad.
Saifur Rehman had told a news conference on June 10, 1997, that the then chairman of the CDA, now late Shafi Sehwani, a PPP-appointee, was also involved in the land scam. Some local residents including Sardar Ishaque, Raja Mehboob Elahi and Haji Bashir had appeared before reporters and had claimed that they had been forced to sell their land at a throwaway price in 1994 and Zardari wanted to build a polo ground in Sangjani.
It was then alleged that a US resident Nasir Khan had been used as frontman by Zardari. According to a 1997 news report, Khan was instrumental in making deals with the owners, whose lands were forcibly acquired by the revenue administration of Islamabad not for any official projects but for Khan’s private ownership, who was allegedly acting at Zardari’s behest.