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Pak finance minister Ishaq Dar indicted in Panama Papers case

Finance minister Ishaq Dar refused to accept the charges framed against him in the anti-graft court and said his assets were in accordance with his income.

world Updated: Sep 27, 2017 17:39 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan,Ishaq Dar,Corruption
Pakistan finance minister Ishaq Dar arrives to appear in an accountability court in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. (AP)

An anti-corruption court on Wednesday indicted Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar in a case filed against him by the country’s anti-graft watchdog for allegedly possessing “assets beyond known sources of income”.

Dar, a close relative of former premier Nawaz Sharif, appeared in the accountability court but no media representatives were allowed into the courtroom. According to reports, Dar denied all the charges and refused to accept the indictment.

“The court illegally indicted Dar, which is why no lawyers or media persons were allowed to enter,” Supreme Court Bar Association secretary Aftab Bajwa was quoted as saying by the media.

The court, while indicting Dar, directed the prosecution to begin producing witnesses on October 4, which was set as the next date of hearing. Two witnesses have been summoned for the next hearing.

In its July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case that disqualified Sharif, the Supreme Court also directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, to file a case against Dar for allegedly living beyond his means.

Chaos prevailed outside the anti-corruption court when Dar arrived for the hearing on Wednesday. The doors to the courtroom were shut for reporters, and Dar had to wait 20 minutes before he was allowed to enter the courtroom from a rear door.

While issuing copies of the case and other material on Monday, Judge Muhammad Bashir had said, “The court intends to conduct daily hearings in the (case), so that the trial is concluded within the stipulated time of six months.”

The court also turned down a request from Dar’s lawyer for more time to frame charges on the ground that the “bulk of the record has to be perused in a brief period of time”.

Bashir quipped, “Will you plead guilty when charges would be framed?” He implied that Dar would definitely plead not guilty and stand trial.

“(A lot of) time has already been wasted,” the judge said. “The court has to conclude the trial within six months as per the Supreme Court’s directions.”

Dar has a long association with the Sharif family. His son is married to Sharif’s daughter Asma Nawaz.

He was also imprisoned when Nawaz Sharif’s government was toppled by the military in 1999. He has been facing pressure from the opposition to quit after the NAB filed a case against him but has refused to do so.

The NAB has filed three cases of corruption and money laundering against Sharif, his sons Hassan and Hussain, his daughter Maryam, his son-in-law Mohammad Safdar and Dar.

Sharif’s family has alleged the cases are politically motivated.

First Published: Sep 27, 2017 13:14 IST