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Voluntary return: PHC dismisses Masoom Shah’s bail petition

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Former adviser to Chief Minister Syed Masoom Shah. PHOTO: FILE
PESHAWAR: A division bench of Peshawar High Court dismissed the bail petition of former adviser to chief minister Syed Masoom Shah on Wednesday after it was informed final authority of approving plea bargains rests with the accountability court.

The bench comprising PHC Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Qaiser Rasheed, heard a petition on Wednesday filed by Shah’s lawyer Barrister Waqar who informed the former that National Accountability Bureau had approved his client’s plea bargain.

The proceedings

NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Jamil Saraf informed the bench the accountability court has the power to reject plea bargains, even after its approval by NAB chairperson. “The accountability court is the final confirming authority,” he said.

Saraf argued NAB received Rs90 million and Shah submitted bank guarantees for amount still accrued. He said Shah has to convince the court that taxes, if applicable, have been paid on the amount paid to NAB in plea bargain.

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However, Waqar argued this was one of the two questions posed to Shah by the accountability court, the answer to which should reside with the court itself. He also said the applicant remained in NAB’s custody for 52 days and was then jailed on court orders when his plea bargain offer was accepted by NAB. He said NAB determined the amount which was approved by its chairman.

“When NAB filed the application for final approval of the plea bargain at the court, the latter raised questions and returned it to NAB,” Waqar said. The bench remarked the accountability court could not approve the application blindly.

Waqar argued the court has a significant role in the entire process and the shortcomings highlighted by the accountability court earlier were removed before re-filing the petition. “If the court had these questions in mind why did it not ask them when it was filed for the second time?” he contended. He argued it was NAB’s responsibility to convince the accountability court regarding the questions asked now.

Waqar maintained according to Section 25-B of National Accountability Ordinance, the accountability court has to approve the application formally. He argued the petitioner was still in jail even after payment of the liabilities – Rs90.17 million in cash was paid and the accrued amount was deposited in the shape of bank guarantees. “The court has nothing to do with whether or not taxes were paid on the amount,” he said.

DPG Saraf while citing various sections argued the amount was still in the account of the applicant and has not been withdrawn. Waqar replied even Shah could not withdraw the amount voluntarily. He requested the court to release the petitioner on bail. The bench reserved its judgment and then dismissed the petition.

Published in The Express Tribune

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