LAHORE - An accountability court on Thursday directed for initiation of process to declare Nadeem Zia, Umar Zia and Farhan Ali, the co-accused of former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Salman Rafique in Paragon City scam, as proclaimed offenders.

The accountability court also extended until July 16 the judicial remand of Khawaja Saad and Khawaja Salman in the case.

The jail officials produced the Khawaja brothers before Special Judge Accountability Court Syed Jawadul Hassan who conducted the proceedings.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) official submitted a report about the arrest of the suspects’ co-accused including Nadeem Zia, Umar Zia and Farhan Ali. He said that the court issued arrest warrants of the accused on June 3 but they could not be apprehended yet despite efforts.

The NAB prosecutor said the bureau’s chairman had also issued their warrants and all the possible measures were being taken to secure the wanted persons’ arrest.

The court then directed the NAB official to initiate process to declare the wanted men absconders and adjourned further hearing till July 16. The court also extending judicial remand of Khawaja brothers.

The court directed NAB official to distribute the reference copies to the accused on the next date of hearing.

On Dec 11, 2018, the PML-N leaders were arrested on the charges of launching Paragon City housing project through their “benamidars”.

On April 26, the NAB approved the filing of a reference against the Khawaja brothers and Nadeem Zia for the alleged corruption in the same case. Qaiser Amin Butt, the director of Paragon Housing Society, was also arrested in November last year and later agreed to become approver against the Khawaja brothers and Zia.

Butt and Zia established a company “Air Avenue” in the year 2003; however the name was later changed to Paragon City private (Pvt) Limited.

They are accused of setting up illegal housing scheme under the name of Paragon City that was not approved by Lahore Development Authority.

The suspects are also accused of cheating public at large and obtaining illegal financial benefits of the funds of society. It is pertinent to mention here that a LHC bench dismissed post arrest bail petitions of Khawaja brothers on June 18. The PML-N leaders’ counsel had emphasised before the court that the details of banking transactions of the last ten years had been handed over to the bureau.

However, NAB official informed the court that as per the records of the Paragon Housing Society, an amount of Rs2 billion had been transferred to sons of Salman Rafique and Nadeem Zia.

Earlier, the Camp Jail authorities on Tuesday told the accountability court that the treatment of former Punjab minister Khawaja Salman Rafique was not possible in the jail.

The Lahore-based accountability court ordered the jail authorities for taking action in accordance with the law on the application they filed for the treatment of PML-N leader.

Meanwhile, a heavy contingent of police was deployed around the court to prevent the party activists from disrupting law and order situation during their appearance in the court.

LHC issues notice in

ex-minister Sibtain’s bail plea

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former provincial minister Sibtain Khan on Thursday filed a post-arrest petition in a corruption case.

He is accused of illegally awarding a contract of 500 metric tonnes of iron ore worth multi-billion rupees in Rajwah and Chiniot in 2007. Sibtain Khan is in the National Accountability Bureau’s custody for being probed in the case. A two-member bench of the LHC headed by Justice Ali Baqir Najfi heard the plea.

Sibtain in his plea stated that the NAB has arrested him over the fake charges, being a minister he obeyed rules and regulations. He submitted that he be set free on bail from the NAB custody. Later, the court sought reply from the accountability watchdog by issuing a notice to it.

After being arrested on Friday by the NAB, Sibtain Khan had tendered his resignation from the post of provincial minister for forestry, wildlife and fisheries. He sent his resignation to Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar who subsequently accepted the same. The PTI leader was allegedly involved in handing out illegal tenders in his ministry. He belongs to the paternal contingency of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Mianwali. Khan from the PML-Q platform had previously held the provincial ministry for natural resources in 2007.