ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court on Monday extended interim bail to former President Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur till May 15 in a case 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 Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) through their counsels and cited the Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and investigative officer as respondents.

During hearing, Justice Kayani asked from NAB prosecutor whether arrest warrants were issued for the PPP leaders in any of the ongoing inquiries.

To which, the NAB prosecutor informed the court that arrest warrants were issued in the Park Lane Estate investigation.

Then, the Bench directed NAB to submit a written reply, explaining how many inquiries the bureau is carrying out against the former President and deferred hearing till May 15. In this matter, the anti-corruption watchdog had already submitted its reply opposing bail to the former President.

NAB informs court warrants issued against PPP leaders in Park Lane Estate case

In its reply to the high court, NAB described the reasons for its opposition to grant bail to Zardari, stating NAB was taking action against Zardari within legal boundaries and investigation was underway against the former President in accordance with NAB Ordinance.

In its reply submitted to the court, the NAB said that Zardari in connivance with former Prime Minister and fellow party leader Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, illegally obtained three luxury bulletproof cars, two BMWs and one Toyota Lexus from the Toshakhana (the State gift repository), which were gifted by the governments of UAE and Libya.

It further said that Zardari paid Rs 37.16 million as duty/tax on the said vehicles through cheques issued from the fake accounts in question.

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.

A total of five applications were filed by the PPP leaders counsel team – four by Zardari and one by Faryal Talpur. The petitions sought pre-arrest bail to pre-empt any attempt by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take them into custody.

The IHC granted bail against surety bonds of Rs 1 million each per each application. 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 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 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 10 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.