ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Newly sworn-in Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmad on Saturday constituted a bench to hear bail petitions filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Member of National Assembly (MNA) Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique in the Paragon Housing Society reference.
Justice Ejazul Ahsan and Justice Aminuddin Khan will take up the bail petitions on December 23 – the day when Khawaja brothers’ judicial remand will expire.
Meanwhile, the court has issued notices to the defense counsel advocate Ashtar Ausaf Ali and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Prosecutor.
On Dec. 9, an accountability court had extended their judicial remand in the same case, while Justice Jawadul Hassan had also allowed Mr Rafique to attend the National Assembly’s session in Islamabad.
“I want to say something in the court,” Rafique had pleaded in the courtroom, adding: “Trial in the open court is the basic right of every person, everyone can hear the [proceedings] of the case.”
“In my case, court reporters are not being allowed to enter the courtroom, and facts are being hidden from the general public” Rafique had told the court.
“Police [in every hearing] prevent lawyers, reporters and visitors from entering in the courtroom.”
To this, the judge had directed the police to not resist lawyers and reporters from entering in the courtroom during hearings. “If you can’t provide security, then I will call rangers [for it],” the judge had remarked.
Earlier, accountability court had rejected Khawaja brothers’ acquittal pleas and extended their judicial remand till October 30 in Paragon Housing Society reference.
In October, the court had rejected Khawaja brothers’ acquittal pleas and extended their judicial remand in the same case.
NAB prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan had opposed the acquittal applications and argued that there were rulings by the Supreme Court that the trial court could not entertain such appeals after the indictment. He said NAB powers were protected under Section 18(C) and D of the NAO 1999.
The NAB had arrested the Khwaja brothers on Dec 11, 2018 after the Lahore High Court had denied them further pre-arrest bail they enjoyed for almost three months.
They remained in the bureau’s custody till Feb 2 when the trial court sent them to jail on judicial remand. Their bail petitions had been dismissed by the Lahore High Court.
On April 26, the NAB Lahore had approved filing of a reference against the Khawaja brothers and Nadeem Zia for the alleged corruption.
Qaiser Amin Butt, the director of Paragon Housing Society, was also included in the inquiry initiated by the NAB, and he was also arrested in November last year. Later, he agreed to turn approver against the Khawaja brothers and Zia.
Butt and Zia established a company “Air Avenue” in the year 2003; however the name was later changed to Paragon City private (Pvt) Limited.
On December 11, 2018, Khawaja brothers were detained by the accountability watchdog after the Lahore High Court (LHC) rejected their bail plea.
The NAB had launched an investigation into the alleged scam in November last year after a number of victims staged protests and held a press conference at the Lahore Press Club against what they termed the housing society’s fraud.