Pakistan finance minister indicted on graft charges

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, center, arrives with his lawyer Amjad Pervez, right, to appear in an accountability court in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Wednesday. — AP

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was indicted by an anti-corruption court on Wednesday for possessing assets beyond known sources of income. The minister pleaded not guilty to all charges, terming them baseless. Anti-corruption watchdog National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Sept. 8 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 had disqualified Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister and ordered corruption cases against him, his children Maryam, Hussain and Hassan and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar.

A situation of chaos was observed outside the accountability court when Dar arrived for the hearing. The doors to the court were shut for reporters, and the finance minister had to wait at least 20 minutes outside before he was allowed to enter the court premises from the back door. The minister refused to accept the charges read out by accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir 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 charges.

Dar also asked the court to allow him to skip the personal appearance during the trial and the court announced to decide it later on.

The court has already announced to conduct day-to-day hearing in the case. Arif Chaudhry, President Islamabad High Court Bar Association, said that evidence of prosecution will be important as the court would decide the case on the basis of it. “The evidence will be judged and defense lawyers will be given an opportunity to present counter evidence to reject the charges,” he said. Rana Sanalullah, law minister of Punjab Province and a vocal member of ruling Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N) rejected the charges against Dar.

“The charges and indictment of Dar is a joke,” he said. Dar has a long association with Sharif family. Dar’s son is married to Sharif’s daughter Asma Nawaz. He was also imprisoned when the Sharif government was toppled in 1999. He was under pressure by opposition to resign after NAB filed case against him but so far he has refused to do so. The NAB has filed three cases of corruption and money laundering against Sharif, his sons — Hassan and Hussain, daughter — Maryam, son-in-law — Safdar, and Finance Minister Dar in the Accountability Court in Islamabad and Rawalpindi recently. Sharif’s family has alleged that the cases are politically motivated. — Agencies