A Pakistani anti-graft court Monday issued a bailable arrest warrant against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after he failed to appear before it in a corruption case spiralling from the Panama Papers scandal. The Accountability Court in Islamabad dismissed 67-year-old Dar’s application seeking exemption from personal appearance in the case hearing.
His counsel Khawaja Haris appeared in the court of judge Muhammad Bashir and sought Dar’s exemption from appearance as he was in London to seek medical treatment. But the court rejected the plea and issued the bailable arrest warrant and ordered him to appear in the next hearing on November 2.
The case was filed against Dar by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) following a verdict by the Supreme Court, which disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif after an investigation into corruption allegations against his family. Dar has so far appeared before the court seven times since the trial began. Earlier, he missed the first hearing on September 20. It is the second hearing that he missed.
Proceedings in the trial could not advance today due to Dar’s absence, even though prosecution witness Abdul Rehman Gondal, branch manager of a private bank’s parliament branch, had appeared in the court with two gunny bags full of documents related to the minister’s bank accounts. Haris stated in the application that Dar, after attending the 16th Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had travelled to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
He said the minister fell ill in Jeddah and subsequently had to go to London for medical treatment. The court had indicted Dar last month in the case for owning assets “beyond his known sources of income”.
At the last hearing on October 23, the court recorded statements of NAB’s witnesses, including Abdul Rehman Gondal of Allied Bank and Masoodul Ghani of Habib Bank Limited. Earlier, three witnesses testified in the case, including Al-Baraka Bank Senior Vice-President Tariq Javed and Shahid Aziz of the National Investment Trust (NIT) asset management company.
Aziz told the court that Dar invested Rs 120 million as finance minister in 2015 in NIT but withdrew this money after the Panama Papers case started in January 2017. On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
In its reference against the finance minister, NAB has alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs 831.678 million (approx)”. The case alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.