Dar fails to appear as accountability proceedings resume in corruption reference

An accountability court on Thursday rejected a fresh application for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s exemption from court proceedings, upholding his bailable arrest warrants in the corruption reference filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for owning assets beyond his means.

As soon as the proceedings began, the finance minister’s junior counsel Ayesha — who appeared in court instead of senior counsel Khawaja Haris — filed the application for Dar’s exemption, after submitting a medical report from a foreign hospital that states that the finance minister is ill and “cannot stand for more than four minutes.”

The medical report also said that Dar is facing heart palpitations and doctors had recommended that he undergo angiography.

Objecting to the submission of the report, the NAB prosecutor said that the medical report is from a private hospital and was not submitted to court through the proper channels.

“The report should have been forwarded to the court through the the Foreign Office, which should have received it by the Pakistan High Commission,” the prosecutor said.

In the previous hearing on Oct 30, the court issued bailable arrest warrants for the minister after rejecting his counsel’s application seeking Dar’s exemption from appearance in today’s hearing.

Proceedings in the trial could not advance due to Dar’s absence, even though prosecution witness Abdul Rehman Gondal, branch manager of a private bank’s parliament branch, had appeared in the court with two gunny sacks full of documents related to the minister’s bank accounts.

At the outset of the hearing, Dar’s counsel Khawaja Haris filed an application seeking exemption for the minister’s appearance in the court today and adjournment of the hearing until Nov 2. The court initially reserved its decision on the matter but later rejected the application.

‘Assets beyond known income’

On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

In its reference against the finance minister, NAB has alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.

The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.