Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday to record their statements.
A press release by NAB said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari were questioned by the combined investigation team (CIT) under the supervision of DG NAB Rawalpindi Irfan Mangi for approximately two hours in three cases.
NAB also handed a questionnaire to the two on the three cases and informed that this should be submitted to the CIT within 10 days. The press release added that NAB would legally evaluate responses given by the two today and those to the questionnaire and decide if they are to be summoned in these three cases again.
The press release also stated that this investigation was being done under the direct supervision of NAB chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal.
Informed by NAB sources that Bilawal and Zardari who were initially supposed to be questioned separately were made to sit in the same room on the directives of DG Rawalpindi. 11 NAB officers questioned Bilawal on the Park Lane Estate Company, while the former president was questioned on the Zardari Group.
Sources informed that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sounded convincing during the questioning and asked counter-questions.
NAB officials also asked Asif Zardari to submit responses to the questionnaire consisting of 40 questions within one week, to which the former president sought 10-15 days.
The statements of Bilawal and Zardari were also recorded.
Upon arriving at the headquarters, Asif Ali Zardari’s vehicle was allowed to enter the premises as he is the former president, while Bilawal’s vehicle was stopped at the gate. NAB officials wanted Bilawal to walk inside but he refused. Later, the PPP chairman’s vehicle was allowed to enter the premises. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari accompanied her brother.
PPP workers from across the country reached the federal capital to express solidarity with the party chairman. A large number of PPP workers were present outside the NAB headquarters, while several others were arrested by the police.
'Our fault and weakness we did not change NAB law'
Speaking to party workers after his appearance, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said NAB was created for political engineering.
“It was our fault and weakness and we did not change this dark [NAB] law during our tenure in government.”
"The case for which I was summoned, I became a shareholder of that company when I was younger than one year old. These people are staring my accountability from that age.”
Bilawal added that they would get notices after making speeches in the National Assembly but this did not scare them.“We will continue to raise our voices against outlawed organisations. We will continue to demand the resignation of those three federal cabinet ministers who are associated with banned organisations.”
Case transferred to Islamabad
Last week, a banking court in Karachi had ordered the transfer of the case to Islamabad and summoned Zardari and Bilawal on March 20.
On Tuesday, the Sindh High Court (SHC) granted a 10-day protective bail to Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur but rejected their request to issue a stay order against a banking court's decision allowing NAB to transfer the fake bank accounts case to Rawalpindi.
Turning down Zardari’s request to issue a stay order against the banking court’s ruling, the SHC bench issued notices to the NAB prosecutor and director general of NAB Karachi office summoning a response from them within a week. The court further said a decision on the matter will be taken after listening to all parties in the case.
Bilawal tweets Jalib's Dastoor
Earlier, Bilawal tweeted phrases from Habib Jalib’s poem Dastoor.
“Dastoor”, “Main bhee kha’if naheen takhta e daar say, Main bhee Mansoor hoon, keh do aghyaar say, Kyun daraatay ho zindaan ki divar say, Zulm ki baat ko, Jehel ki raat ko, Main naheen maanta, Main naheen jaanta,” Bilawal tweeted.
'Third generation of family being put on trial'
Prior to Bilawal arriving at NAB, his sister Bakhtawar tweeted that this was the third generation of her family being put on trial for fake cases. She added that there was no difference between this government and that of Zia-ul-Haq.
"On whose authority/what grounds does NAB (a body set up by a dictator to remove elected govs) summon @BBhuttoZardari? For criticising this Puppet gov? For speaking out against their supported banned organisations? For demanding pro extremist ministers from their gov be sacked?!" she said in another tweet.
The FIA is investigating 32 people in relation to money laundering from fictitious accounts, including Zardari and Talpur. Zardari’s close aide Hussain Lawai was arrested in July last year in connection with the probe.
The former president’s other close aide and Omni Group chairman Anwar Majeed a close aide and Omni Group chairman and his son, Abdul Ghani, were arrested by FIA in August 2018.
Over 20 ‘benami’ accounts at some private banks were opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015 from where transactions worth billions of rupees were made, according to sources.
The amount, according to FIA sources, is said to be black money gathered from various kickbacks, commissions and bribes.