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NAB Case Against Bilawal Weak On Legal Grounds: Lawyers

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LAHORE: Dragging Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in NAB investigation is legally tenuous while former president Asif Ali Zardari may avail the defense of ‘double jeopardy’ and that ‘no one should be axed twice’ in Park Lane Estate Case.

This is the upshot of the views of two known lawyers of Lahore about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases against PPP leadership.

The father-son duo on Wednesday appeared before the anti-graft watchdog in connection with inquires regarding fake accounts, alleged loan obtained by the Park Lane Estate Company and holding assets beyond means. NAB in a press release stated that Bilawal and Zardari had been grilled for two hours in three cases by a combined investigation team at its Rawalpindi office.

The CIT also handed them a questionnaire pertaining to the cases, which they must respond to within 10 days.

PPP claimed Bilawal had never served as a director and as a shareholder and had no involvement in the day-to-day affairs of the company. Furthermore, PPP holds that Zardari purchased the Park Lane Limited on July 31, 1989 and resigned from the directorship of this company when he assumed the office of the president of Pakistan in 2008.

Naya Daur approached NA Butt, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, and Ch Shoaib Saleem, another senior lawyer, to get their expert views on the cases.

Butt was of the view that not only the case against Bilawal, but against Zardari had no legal standing and might be subsequently quashed.

He said Bilawal had become a minor shareholder of Park Lane Limited when he was only one-year-old.  The PPP chairman, Butt added, has a clear stance on the ‘assets beyond means case’ since his all assets were inherited from his late mother Benazir Bhutto. For Butt, dragging Bhutto in this NAB case seems more of political victimization.

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Shoaib Saleem said NAB proceedings have a political context. In 1997, he said, the Ehtesab Bureau of Mian Saifur Rehman had also initiated inquiry against Zardari in Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd case but subsequently all such proceedings were dropped due to lack of sufficient evidence.

“Once the proceedings against any accused are dropped due to insufficient evidence, subsequent proceedings on the same ground make the case weak.”  The accused, said Shoaib, may avail the defense of ‘double jeopardy’ and that ‘no one should be axed twice’.

Secondly, he said, Bilawal held no office till the above said company acquired assets through alleged ‘illegal means’, so he could not be held accountable for corruption or having assets beyond known sources of income.

Saleem added that Zardari may be inquired for having profitable interest in the company as its director and simultaneously holding the office of presidency (a clear violation of Article 43 of the constitution). Again, he said, this is not the mandate of NAB.

“As far as the acquisition of the land for the company is concerned, this whole process has been conducted through proper legal proceedings involving the Islamabad High Court, so there are very bleak chances of Zardari’s conviction.”

However, Shoaib said, the cases could be used by those in power to keep him behind bars like Nawaz Sharif.

Asif Zardari and Bilawal were summoned in connection with Park Lane Estate Pvt Ltd, (a Karachi based company) which had purchased 2460 kanals of prime land in Islamabad in March 2009.

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In a case filed against Zardari in 1997, the same land was under scrutiny but the case was dropped for lack of evidence.

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