Pakistan’s federal anti-graft body the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday froze bank accounts and seized properties of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar just as an accountability court in Punjab’s capital city Lahore, initiated proceedings against him in a corruption reference.
The Lahore NAB reportedly wrote to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), reminding the banking regulator that since a reference was pending against Dar, “the bank accounts of Mr Ishaq Dar, Federal Minister, may be cautioned”.
The bureau, however, left room for transactions from these accounts, as NAB had made them subject to the orders of the accountability court, report local daily Dawn.
A NAB team also visited the minister’s residence in capital Islamabad on Wednesday to execute his arrest warrants. “Since Mr Dar is already abroad, the officials handed over the warrants along with the court summons to his staff,” said a statement from the bureau.
The visit came after an accountability court issued bailable arrest warrants for Finance Minister Dar in the reference filed against him for owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
Prior to entering politics, Dar was a chartered accountant and worked as an accountant in various private and public sector organizations.
The arrest warrants for Dar were issued against a surety bond of Rs1 million. The minister, a long-time close aide and relative of recently disqualified PM Nawaz Sharif, Dar had failed to appear in a corruption case linked to the Panama Papers scandal.
NAB has also written to district governments, asking them to stop any transfer or disposal of the properties owned by Mr Dar, warning that in case of non-compliance, they could face up to three years in prison under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.
During the hearing on Wednesday, Dar’s staff informed the court that summons had been received and it was in the knowledge of the finance minister. The officer explained, however, that Mr Dar was in London on a private visit. “His seat was confirmed and he wanted to return but he couldn’t,” he added.
The NAB reference had been ordered by the Supreme Court in its July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case involving Sharifs family and included Dar
In the reference against Dar, the NAB has alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests / resources in his own name and / or in the name of his dependents of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx).” The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for.”
The NAB, however, termed the reference as “interim” since it was based on “material collected by the JIT, the FIA and the NAB till date”, and said that it reserved the right to file a supplementary reference.
Mr Dar may appear before the accountability court on Sept 25, the next date of hearing.
The court is hearing the corruption cases against 67- year-old Sharif, his daughter Maryam, sons Hussain and Hasan, son-in-law Muhammad Safdar and Dar.
According to the Supreme Court, the accountability judge should decide the cases within six months.
Meanwhile, a plea has been put forward in the Senate Standing Committee on Finance seeking resignation of the Finance Minister until the corruption case against him is wrapped up, reported Geo News.
Several members of the committee at a meeting today, headed by Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Saleem Mandviwala, expressed concerns that daily media coverage of the hearing against Dar will damage the country and the finance ministry’s credibility.