An accountability court on Wednesday returned the Paragon City reference against Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The court held that the matter did not fall under its jurisdiction as per amended National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 2022.
Accountability Court Judge Qamar-uz-Zaman announced the verdict on acquittal applications, filed by the Khawaja brothers. The court had reserved its verdict on the applications after hearing arguments of the parties, earlier in the day.
During the proceedings, Khawaja brothers’ counsel Advocate Amjad Parvaiz advanced arguments on acquittal applications of his clients and submitted that the reference had been filed with a mala fide intention and on political grounds.
He submitted that his clients were neither shareholders nor sponsors or directors of the Paragon society. aHe submitted that there was no chance of proving their guilt in the matter. He submitted that the court had recorded the statements of a number of prosecution witnesses but so far, no witness gave an adverse statement against his clients.
He submitted that after the new amendment, the case did not fall within the jurisdiction of the NAB and the accountability court since the amount involved in the reference was less than Rs 500 million. He submitted that the society had settled its matters with a majority of the affectees whereas a total amount of Rs 58 million of eight affectees was still disputed. He pleaded with the court to accept the acquittal applications of his clients.
Kh Saad Rafique and Kh Salman Rafique also appeared before the court during the proceedings and marked their attendance. However, after some time, the court allowed Kh Saad Rafique to leave the courtroom on his request.
It is pertinent to mention here that the court had sought arguments from the parties on jurisdiction issue on previous hearing after a NAB investigation officer, in a supplementary reference, stated that no further proceedings were required in the Paragon City reference against Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother, Khawaja Salman Rafique. He further submitted that the allegations against the accused could not be established.
NAB had accused the Khawaja brothers of wrongfully obtaining monetary benefits from Paragon City. The bureau alleged that Khawaja brothers, with the help of their ‘benamidars’ established the housing project and cheated the public at large.
NAB had arrested the Khawaja brothers on Dec 11, 2018, after the Lahore High Court had rejected a plea to extend their pre-arrest bail they enjoyed for three months. They remained in the bureau’s custody till Feb 2, 2019, when the trial court sent them to jail on judicial remand. They were later released by the Supreme Court on bail.