Court orders NAB to record Nawaz’s statement in gifts case

==Bureau, until Nov 30, will record former premier’s statement

ISLAMABAD  -  An accountibility court in Islamabad on Monday accepted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s application to record his statement in Toshakhana reference. AC Judge M Bashir was hearing the Toshakhana reference 06/2020 hearing in Islamabad. Former president Asif Ali Zardari, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Omni group owners Abul Ghani Majid and Anwar Majid are all accused in the reference. The NAB was given until Nov 30 to record the former premier’s statement. The case alleges that Nawaz, former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani received luxury vehicles and gifts from the Toshakhana — a government repository that stores gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and officials by heads of other governments, states, and foreign dignitaries.

In June 2020, an accountability court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the former premier. Months later, Nawaz challenged the warrants in the Islamabad High Court but had withdrawn the petition days later.

On Sept 10, 2020, he was declared a proclaimed offender in the case, with an accountability court initiating the process to confiscate his properties and directing the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to make his arrest through Interpol. Last month, just two days before his return to Pakistan, the court suspended Nawaz’s perpetual arrest warrants. At the previous hearing, the court had confirmed the PML-N supremo’s bail in the case. On Monday, pleader Rana Irfan and Nawaz’s lawyer Qazi Misbah appeared in court. At the outset, Advocate Misbah urged the court to issue directions to the National Accountability Bureau on recording Nawaz’s statement.

“A supplementary reference needs to be filed … a reference was filed in the absence of Nawaz,” he said, adding that “we want the NAB to record Nawaz’s position”. The NAB prosecutor sought time to go through the petition. However, Judge Muhammad Bashir said: “What is the problem? Call Nawaz Sharif and record his statement.”

In his response, the prosecutor said only the investigating officer could record the statement. At that, Advocate Misbah asked the former for the questionnaire. “We will give the answers,” Nawaz’s lawyer added. The NAB prosecutor then said there were no objections to the PML-N supremo recording his statement before the IO. The hearing was then adjourned till Nov 30.

The case is related to receiving luxury vehicles and gifts from the Toshakhana. Under the rules, it is mandatory that gifts of a certain value are deposited in Toshakhana. However, an official can keep these gifts provided he pays a certain percentage of the price assessed by the Toshakhana evaluation committee. The reference states that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz obtained cars from Toshakhana by paying 15pc of the price of the cars. NAB had further alleged that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had facilitated the two. He dishonestly and illegally relaxed the procedure for the acceptance and disposal of gifts, issued by the government of Pakistan vide Cabinet Division’s Memorandum No.9/8/2004-TK dated June 25, 2007, which expressly stipulates that vehicles shall not be allowed to be purchased by the recipients and be given to the central pool of care of the Cabinet Division. The NAB reference alleges that Nawaz did not hold any public office in the year 2008. However, from April to December 2008 without giving any application or request to then prime minister Gilani, Nawaz dishonestly and illegally obtained relaxation for his benefits of procedure for the vide Cabinet Division’s above said Memorandum which expressly stipulates that vehicles shall not be allowed to be purchased by the recipients and be given to the central pool of cars of the Cabinet Division.

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