ISLAMABAD   -    The Islamabad High Court Wednesday granted interim pre-arrest bail to former president Asif Ali Zardari in two call-up notices while extended interim bail to him and his sister Faryal Talpur 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 conducted hearing of the petitions moved by the leaders of PPP through their counsels and cited the chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and investigative officer as respondents.

The bench granted interim bail to the former president till May 22 against surety bonds of Rs0.5 million each. It also approved extension pleas filed by Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in five other cases.

During hearing, Zardari’s counsel Farooq H Naek Advocate regretted that his clients were continuously receiving call-up notices. Naek told the court that there were 25 inquiries under process against his client with NAB.

 He stated that chairman NAB was authorised to issue arrest warrants against accused during inquiries process. Therefore, he prayed to the court to grant pre-arrest bail to former president. Naek also requested the bench to separate the case related to Mushtaq and Sons.

At this, the bench observed that the court would separate it after viewing cases’ nature. Then, Zardari’s counsel also prayed to the court to postpone cases hearing against his client till after Eid-ul-Fitr.

NAB prosecutor adopted that the accused were used to file such petitions whenever any case got mature. He told that the department had issued arrest warrants against accused in one reference.

Later, the bench extended Zardari’s bail in Park Lane reference till June 12. However Zardari and Talpur’s bail in Opal inquiry was extended till June 11. Likewise, former president’s bail had been extended till June 20, in reference related to bullet proof vehicles.

The IHC bench had also extended the bails of two accused till May 29, in mega money laundering case. In suspected transaction case, Zardari’s bail extended till June 18, and his bail plea in Haresh Company case adjourned till May 30.

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 bails while the other two were on new call-up notices. Both of Talpur’s applications sought extension in pre-arrest 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 the reasons for its opposition to bail to Zardari saying that NAB was 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 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 added that in order to safeguard himself from mala fide and illegal arrest at the hands of NAB and law enforcing agencies of the country and to enable him to surrender before the competent court of law, he had filed a constitutional petition before the Sindh High Court for protective bail. The SHC on March 19 approved protective bail for him for 10 ten days, he said.

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

“At the moment 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 Call Up 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.

The petitioner continued that he apprehend his arrest at the hands of the respondents on the basis of Call Up Notices.

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.