Inamullah Khattak | Mohammad Imran
Islamabad, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s fifth hearing in the accountability court ended on Monday without much progress as Dar’s lawyer was only able to complete Tariq Javed’s cross-examination.
In the previous hearing, Al-Baraka Bank Senior Vice-President Tariq Javed had informed the court that Dar opened an account in the bank’s Lahore branch in 1991 and provided the court details of all five accounts held by Dar in the bank.
Today, he submitted a record of e-mails exchanged between the bank and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which he was asked to present by the court in last week’s hearing.
Javed said that he had not reviewed the submitted documents in detail and despite having submitted documents related to Dar’s First Hajvery Modarba Company, he was unaware of how modarba companies operated.
NAB’s Special Prosecutor Imran Shafiq said that a bank officer need not know how a company works and it was the job of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to inform on the matter.
Shafiq objected to Dar’s lawyer Khawaja Harris’ plea to exempt his client from appearing in the court for today’s hearing. He said that the case was the most important matter for the accused and if an assignment or a meeting is a hindrance to his appearance, the accused should give it up.
Accountability Judge Muhammad Bashir deferred judgement on the matter which meant Dar remained in the court until the end of the day’s hearing.
The hearing was then adjourned until October 18.
Prosecution’s fourth witness, Masood Ghani, the manager of Habib Bank Islamabad, could not be presented today because of lack of time.
Earlier on Monday, the court had postponed Dar’s hearing until 12pm after his lawyer Khawaja Harris failed to appear in court due to some prior commitments.
As the finance minister appeared in court, the bench had rejected junior lawyer Kauseen Faisal Mufti’s application for the defendant’s exemption from future hearings.
In the application, Mufti said that Dar wished to be exempted from court in order to be able to concentrate on his duties as the country’s finance minister.
The accountability court had indicted Dar last month in a reference pertaining to his owning “assets beyond his known sources of income”.
During an eight-hour trial, held on October 12, NAB had presented Tariq Javed and Shahid Aziz of the National Investment Trust (NIT) who testified against the finance minister.
Dar’s counsel continued to point out discrepancies in the prosecution’s evidence and, during the cross-examination of a prosecution witness, found certain documents to have been tampered with.
During the cross examination, defence counsel Khawaja Haris had drawn the court’s attention to an original document regarding Dar’s investments which was produced by the witness, saying that it was different from the copy submitted to the court.
It had emerged that the form carried stamps of two cities — Lahore and Islamabad — and seemed to have been tampered with.
When confronted with this detail, the witness had said that while NIT kept the original form, a carbon copy was sent to Karachi, adding that the photocopy that was submitted to the court was sent to him by the Karachi office.
However, the court had noted that the original and photocopy were different.
In his statement, the witness had informed the court that after receiving the original, as well as photocopies of the documents from Karachi, he sent the same to the Lahore NAB.
“If a carbon copy is made from the original document, then why is the photocopy different from the original?” asked Khawaja Haris.
The witness, however, said it was routine practice to make corrections in such documents.
The witness had told the court that Dar invested Rs120 million in NIT, but withdrew the amount in January 2017.
During cross-examination, the witness had confirmed that the investment was made in accordance with the company’s rules and the amount was refunded to Dar, along with the profit, after deducting government taxes.
The second witness also recorded his also handed over documents regarding nine companies of the Hajvery Group, associated with Dar.
During cross-questioning, Javed admitted that he was neither the author, nor the custodian of most of the evidence he had produced before the court.
However, he had claimed that the bank management had allowed him to trace the record of Dar and the companies associated with him, but he could not produce any written orders in this regard.
He had said that the management intimated him via email that he could produce the record at the next date of proceeding.
The accountability judge had then put off further proceedings until Oct 16. The court also summoned another witness, Masoodul Ghani of the Habib Bank Limited, on the same date.
On October 4, Dar’s lawyer had raised questions regarding the relevance of the first prosecution witness and objected to the admissibility of evidence procured from the witness by NAB.
The counsel made the objections after Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir recorded the statement of Bank Al-Falah Manager Operations Ishtiaq Ali, in whose branch Dar held a personal and company account until 2006.
NAB Special Prosecutor Imran Shafiq produced the witness and exhibited the relevant documents in the assets reference against Dar, which defense counsel Khawaja Haris described as “completely irrelevant”.
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”.