Islamabad: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was indicted by an anti-corruption court on Wednesday, hearing the Panama Papers case, for possessing assets beyond known sources of income.
The 67-year old minister pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, terming them baseless.
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on September 8 filed a case against Mr. Dar for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income following the July 28 verdict of the Supreme Court.
The apex court had disqualified Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister and ordered corruption cases against him, his children Maryam, Husain and Hasan 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 the accountability court judge, Muhammad Bashir and said his assets were in accordance with his 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 the charges.
Mr. 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 defence lawyers will be given an opportunity to present counter evidence to reject the charges,” he said.
Under Pakistan’s laws, Dar can continue to work as a minister until he is found guilty. However, opposition leaders have asked him to resign on moral grounds.
Minister of state for information, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, told media that Dar was not given mandatory seven days before indictment which was against the NAB laws.
“Dar has been indicted today though our lawyer urged the court to postpone indictment and give seven days from September 25 when the court decided to indict him,” he said.
Chaudhry said that the court has summoned evidence on October 4.
“Initially two bankers have been summoned as witness on the next hearing but the prosecution plans to present more witnesses in the case during the trial,” he said.