The Supreme Court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Thursday not to summon Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister in the Rs35 billion money-laundering probe involving fake bank accounts.
Strict security arrangements were in place at the apex court in light of the former president's expected appearance, after reports of him being summoned by the chief justice.
Senior PPP leader and Zardari's counsel, Farooq Naek, arrived at the Supreme Court earlier and told the media that Zardari's appearance in court will depend on the nature of today's proceedings.
However, as the hearing went under way, it became clear that Zardari will not be appearing in court.
During the proceedings, Chief Justice of Paksitan Justice Saqib Nisar remarked that the defence counsels should have approached the apex court if they had reservations about the top court's orders.
The chief justice also clarified that neither was Zardari summoned in person today nor was the brother-sister duo placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) — as reports had stated earlier.
He then inquired from the attorney general that if its order doesn't mention Zardari's placement on the ECL, how such reports were aired in the media.
The two-member bench also wondered that since Zardari is just a suspect, how could he be placed on the ECL.
Chief Justice Nisar remarked that it will direct the FIA not to display bias against anyone during the investigation.
The hearing was later adjourned until August 6.
'Conspiracy to bring bad name to PPP'
Zardari's counsel Naek told the media outside the court that the bench observed that it does not want the election transparency affected.
"This is all being done to bring a bad name to the PPP," he claimed. Naek also clarified that the PPP supremo has no association with Zardari Pvt Ltd — which is being probed by the FIA in the scam.
Moreover, Naek said he informed the court of their reservations against FIA's joint investigation team head Najam Mirza, adding that the chief justice has assured them that he will keep these issues in mind.
Answering a question, Naek blamed the media for "creating a hype" about the ECL issue. He, however, admitted that there was confusion in the earlier order of the court regarding the placement of names on the ECL.
On July 9, the Supreme Court had reportedly summoned Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and others in a case relating to the money-laundering scam on July 12.
The FIA is investigating 32 people in relation to money-laundering from fictitious accounts, under which Zardari’s close aide and Pakistan Stock Exchange Chairman Hussain Lawai was also arrested earlier this week.
The names of the former president and his sister have already been placed on the ECL — barring them from travelling abroad — it was reported in the media.
'Have faced cases before, will continue to do so'
The PPP co-chairman denies involvement in the scam.
Speaking during an interview on Wednesday, he said that he will face the bogus cases like he did in the past, adding that he was sent a notice of Rs150 million rather than the propagated Rs35 billion.
He also said that it was the time for election, not for accountability, and that his party would not boycott the forthcoming polls. He added that accountability should take place either before or after election season.
“We won’t give anyone opportunity by boycotting the election,” he added.
Rejecting the allegations against him, the PPP supremo said he has face cases before and will do so again.
The FIA inquiry started when the financial monitoring unit of the State Bank of Pakistan generated a 'suspicious transaction report' in January this year regarding ten bank accounts.
Sources maintain that over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at a private bank were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made.
The amount according to FIA sources is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes. But despite these huge transactions, the bank authorities never reported them to the authorities concerned including the FIA.
On July 8, the Supreme Court ordered to place the names of heads of three private banks involved in the scam on the ECL.
The order came as Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar took notice of the slow pace of inquiry into the case.