Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was today indicted by an anti-corruption court in capital Islamabad for possessing assets beyond known means and sources of income.
The minister, a relative and close aide of former ousted PM Nawaz Sharif, pleaded not guilty to all charges, terming them baseless.
The anti-corruption watchdog called National Accountability Bureau (NAB) this month filed a case against Dar for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income following the July 28 verdict of the Supreme Court on Panama Papers case.
The apex court in its historical verdict disqualified Sharif as the prime minister and ordered corruption cases against him, his children Maryam, Husain and Hasan and son-in-law Capt(R) Muhammad Safdar.
The minister refused to accept the charges read out by the accountability court judge and said his assets were in accordance with income and he will prove it with evidence during the trial.
The court ordered NAB to present evidence and NAB prosecutor submitted a list of 16 people whom it would present in the court to testify in support of the charges. The court asked NAB prosecution to present at least two witnesses who would testify against Dar.
Meanwhile, the court rejected an application filed by Dar requesting exemption from personal attendance in court hearings and said the case would be heard on a day-to-day basis after Muharram holidays.
The hearing was subsequently adjourned till October 4. “The court intends to conduct daily hearings in the reference, so that the trial is concluded within the stipulated time of six months,” said Judge Muhammad Bashir on Monday while issuing copies of the reference and other materials.
“[A lot of] time has already been wasted,” the judge added. “The court has to conclude the trial within six months as per the Supreme Court’s directions.”
Dar has a long and close association with Sharif’s family. Dar’s son has been married to Sharif’s daughter Asma Nawaz.
He is under pressure by the opposition and media to resign after NAB filed case against him but so far he has refused to do so. Pakistan’s influential daily English newspaper Dawn in its editorial on Tuesday wrote: “…one thing has now become certain: Mr Dar needs to step down as finance minister. This is not only because he is now hobbled by legal entanglements. Even more importantly, it is high time Pakistan had a finance minister who is willing and able to acknowledge that the economy is in a downward spiral and that if urgent corrective action is not undertaken, the country will find itself in a crisis very soon. ”
The NAB had filed three cases of corruption and money laundering against Sharif, his sons — Hassan and Hussain, daughter — Maryam, son-in-law — Safdar, and one case against Dar in the Accountability Court in Islamabad and Rawalpindi recently.
On Tuesday, an accountability court declined Nawaz Sharif’s request for exemption from personal attendance and issued bailable arrest warrants for Maryam, Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, as well as retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, for their absence from its proceedings.