ISLAMABAD   -   Islamabad High Court (IHC) will resume hearing today in petitions of former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur who sought pre-arrest bail in a matter pertaining to laundering of billions of rupees through fake bank accounts.

A division bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani will conduct hearing. During the previous hearing, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Jahanzeb Bharwana had briefed the bench about the case saying that Asif Zardari is directly involved in fake bank accounts case and the bureau has enough evidence to arrest him.

He said that the bureau had tracked the transfer of Rs1.5 billion to an account linked to Zardari group of companies from an account identified as fake. He added that the account holder had no idea that the account existed on his name while the transaction was flagged as suspicious by the State Bank of Pakistan as well.

At this, Justice Aamer had asked that whether the NAB had enough material to initiate an investigation under the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010. The NAB prosecutor replied that they can launch an investigation without meeting requirements of the act. However, the court rejected Naek’s request to submit a reply to NAB’s document outlining details of the mega money laundering case.

The PPP leaders moved the court through their counsel Farooq H Naek and cited the chairman NAB and investigative officer as respondents.

A total of nine applications were filed by the PPP leaders – seven by Zardari and two by Talpur. Five out of the seven petitions filed by Zardari sought extension in pre-arrest bail while the other two were on new call-up notices. Both of Talpur’s applications sought extension in bail.

In this matter, the anti-corruption watchdog had already submitted its reply opposing bail to the former president. In its reply to the high court, NAB stated it is taking action against Zardari within legal boundaries and investigation was underway against the former president in accordance with NAB ordinance.

It added, “all the proceedings were taken in accordance with law and there is absolutely no violation of fundamental rights of petitioner, he had been given complete opportunity vide call-up notice to clarify allegations levelled against him.”

“There is no statutory provision provided in the law whereby NAB is bound to inform or give notice before arrest, hence this petition is liable to be dismissed,” contended the bureau. Therefore, the bureau prayed to the court that petition of Zardari seeking bail may be dismissed in the interest of justice.

In their petitions, they prayed to the court to restrain the bureau from arresting them. In the identical petitions, the former president stated that NAB had served a call-up notice on him to appear on March 20 before a combined investigation team to record his statement with respect to investigation into fake bank accounts.

He said that in order to safeguard himself from malafide and illegal arrest at the hands of NAB and law enforcing agencies and to enable him surrender before the competent court of law, he had filed a constitutional petition before Sindh High Court for the bail. The SHC on March 19 approved 10 days bail, he added.

Zardari said that he also appeared before the NAB team which after interrogation handed over him a questionnaire with the direction to submit reply to the same within ten days.

 “At the moment, the petitioner is not aware that how many cases are registered against him and how many call-up notices will be issued to him and /or references may be filed against him by the respondents. Till date, three such notices have been issued by the respondents to the petitioner,” said the petition.

“There is every possibility that if petitioner appears before NAB authorities in connection with a call-up notice, he may be entangled and arrested in some other case,” the petitioner added.

Therefore, Zardari requested the court to grant him bail before arrest and in the meanwhile, interim bail before arrest may be granted to the petitioner. He also prayed to the court to direct respondent NAB authorities to submit list of all cases against the petitioner.