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Zardari, Gilani indicted, Nawaz declared proclaimed offender in Toshakhana case

NAB has accused Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari for retaining vehicles gifted to them by foreign dignitaries. Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: Former President Asif Ali Zardari and ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani were indicted by the  Accountability Court on Wednesday,  while former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was declared a proclaimed offender over his continuous absence from the proceedings.

In March, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a reference with the Accountability Court against the accused on the alleged violation of the rules of the Toshakhana (state gift repository) which it argued had caused a heavy loss to the national exchequer.

The reference also names Omni Group CEO Khawaja Anwar Majid and his son, Khawaja Abdul Ghani Majid.

NAB alleged that Yousuf Raza Gillani, in order to extend the illegal benefit to the accused, allowed them to keep luxury vehicles gifted to them by foreign dignitaries by relaxing the procedures governing their use.

The anti-graft body stated in the reference that “through dishonest and illegal means for their personal benefit and interest” the accused (Nawaz and Zardari) retained the vehicles in question “against a nominal payment of 15% of their total value”.

The former president has been accused of making the payments through the Omni group owners for which, according to NAB, he has not provided any justification.

When the proceedings resumed today, the court indicted all the four accused present in the court, who pleaded not guilty.

“I have never worked against the rules. I approved the summary which was prepared as per the law,” former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the court in today’s hearing. He added that if the summary was illegal, then it would not have been moved.

The court then responded saying that it was not talking about the merits of the case right now. “You should argue this during the trial,” Accountability Court Judge Asghar Ali told Gilani.

The court also declared former prime minister Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender and issued a perpetual warrant for his arrest over his continued no-show. The court also asked the authorities to submit the details of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader’s properties within seven days.

The court, after issuing the warrants, adjourned the hearing till September 24. The court has also summoned NAB witnesses Waqar ul Hasan Shah, Zubair Siddiqui, and Imran Zafar for the next hearing.

Meanwhile, former president Asif Ali Zardari, when asked about the charges pressed on him, said that he always respected the courts.

“I have been exonerated earlier and will be exonerated this time as well,” claimed the former president. To a question about the court declaring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif a fugitive, Zardari said that the former prime minister was responsible for this, adding that this happens in such a situation.

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