Islamabad, Pakistan – Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested in connection with corruption involving the Al-Qadir University Trust, headed by Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi, during a court appearance related to a separate case, in the capital Islamabad.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), said in a statement that the anti-corruption body had detained the former prime minister “for the crime of corruption” in the trust.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan confirmed that Khan, the leader of the main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was arrested in a case pursued by the NAB.
“Imran did not appear despite the notices, NAB has arrested him for damaging the national treasury. No violence was done to them,” the interior minister said in a tweet.
PTI leaders have denied the charges levelled by the interior minister and added that Khan was not issued any arrest warrant before today.
Khan has been slapped with more than 100 cases, including corruption, “terrorism” and even blasphemy, since the 70-year-old was removed from power last April through a parliamentary vote of no confidence.
Khan has maintained that political parties joined forces with the country’s powerful military to remove him from power. He even accused the US of conspiring in his removal – a charge he has since walked back.
What is the Al-Qadir University Trust case about?
Khan was arrested for an offence related to the Al-Qadir University Trust case. Last June, the new coalition government alleged former Prime Minister Khan and his wife obtained land worth billions of rupees for their trust from Malik Riaz, a major property tycoon of Pakistan, to build an educational institute.
The NAB has alleged that Khan’s PTI government struck a deal with Riaz that caused a loss of more than $239m to the national exchequer, in a quid pro quid arrangement with the real estate businessman.
In December 2019, Riaz agreed to hand over assets, including properties worth $239m, to United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency in an investigation related to “dirty money”.
Khan and his government were not directly linked to the case.
‘Procedure not followed’
Lawyer Abuzar Salman Niazi has said that, by NAB laws amended last year, Khan’s arrest seemed to be illegal. According to the Lahore-based lawyer, under the new amendments, the NAB must issue multiple notices to the accused. And warrants can be issued only in case of repeated failure to cooperate and “willfully and intentionally” avoiding arrest.
“Earlier, the chairman of the NAB had unbridled powers in terms of issuing arrest warrants for any accused. However, after the change in law, this cannot happen any more,” Niazi told Al Jazeera.
Imran Shafique, a former prosecutor of the NAB and a lawyer based in Islamabad, said that, while NAB has the right to arrest an accused in case of their repeated absence, the case to keep the former prime minister detained “looks weak”.
“NAB says they have issued multiple notices which Khan did not pay heed to. But according to the revised amendment, the authority not only has to complete its inquiry first, but also share the report with the accused,” the lawyer told Al Jazeera.
“The new laws make it much easier for the accused to get bail, so it could perhaps help Imran Khan,” he added.
Lahore-based lawyer Asad Rahim Khan said that Khan’s arrest has little to do with the law and everything to do with fear and persecution.
“Following changes to the NAB law, and given Pakistan’s more general principles of bail, accused persons cannot be arrested unless they are refusing to join the investigation, or are tampering evidence, or are considered flight risks,” he told Al Jazeera.
But in a statement issued after the arrest of the former prime minister, the NAB said Khan did not give respond to summoning notices.
“His arrest has been made in accordance with the NAB ordinance and the law,” the statement said.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
By Abid Hussain
Published On 9 May 2023