Saturday Oct 06 2018
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NAB arrests Shehbaz Sharif in Ashiana Iqbal housing scheme case

LAHORE: Former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Friday in the Ashiana Iqbal housing scheme case.

Shehbaz, who is the president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, was arrested when he appeared before NAB to record his statement in the Punjab Saaf Pani Company case. 

NAB had summoned Shehbaz to appear before it at 11am today (Friday) and arrested him when he appeared at its office later during the day. 

NAB press release on the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif 

“The National Accountability Bureau Lahore has arrested former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the Ashiana housing scheme case. NAB will produce Shehbaz Sharif in an accountability court tomorrow [Saturday],” a press statement issued by the anti-graft body said.

Shehbaz will be represented by Azam Nazeer Tarar and Amjad Pervez. 

According to sources, Shehbaz was arrested after Fawad Hasan Fawad, the then implementation secretary, told NAB that he carried out corrupt activities in projects in Punjab on orders from Shehbaz, who was the chief minister then. NAB had also received information from Fawad Hasan’s laptop, from which data was retrieved after his arrest.

In the investigation that followed, Fawad and Shehbaz appeared together, during which the latter said he would bring proof. Subsequently, NAB granted time to Shehbaz to gather proof, but he could not produce anything. Therefore, the anti-graft body summoned him today in the Saaf Pani Company case, which is one of the 56 companies being investigated.

However, Shehbaz was arrested for alleged corruption in Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case, in which former Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique are also involved and have been summoned on October 16. 

Sources said the arrest of Rafique and his brother is also expected in the case.

Shehbaz misused powers as Punjab CM: NAB report

The NAB accused Shehbaz of misusing his powers while being the chief minister of Punjab in an inquiry pertaining to Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC).

The inquiry conducted so far reveals sufficient evidence to prove the involvement of former chief minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif "in the commission of offences as defined under section 9(a) and Schedule of the National Accountability Bureau 1999.

The inquiry conducted states that Shehbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab had unlawfully assumed powers of Board of Directors of Punjab Land and Development Company (PLDC), misused his authority and acted in connivance with Fawad Hassan Fawad who at the time was Secretary Implementation to CM Punjab and others. Contracts awarded to M/s Ch. A Latif and sons for the development and infrastructure of Ashiana Iqbal Housing Project were illegally cancelled.

As the chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif in a meeting on October 21, 2014 unlawfully directed PLDC to entrust the project of Ashiana Iqbal Punjab to LDA. This decision of Sharif was illegal and mala fide as PLDC was the company which was established for undertaking such housing projects. Shehbaz is accused of illegally transferring this project to LDA, which was headed by his close aide Ahad Khan Cheema.

Shehbaz is also accused of working in connivance with other accused in the case and directed LDA to undertake Ashiana Iqbal Project under Public Private Partnership mode. NAB states this was done in order to give “unlawful benefit to blue-eyed firm namely M/s Bismillah Engineering Service Company, which was a proxy firm to M/s Paragon City.” 

Nawaz terms Shehbaz's arrest 'worst victimisation'

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif reacted to the arrest of his brother Shehbaz Sharif, terming it "worst victimization" and holding the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government responsible for it.

The former premier, in his statement, said that not only the arrest was regretful, but it was ridiculous as well.

"Shehbaz, being the chief minister of Punjab, set an example of public service with honesty," Nawaz said, noting, "His services were acknowledged by the people, foreign governments and international organisations."

He said that "everyone knows the PTI government is responsible for this worst vicitimisation."

The former premier said the government should be prepared to face the same treatment in future what it is meting out to opponents today.

'PML-N leaders being arrested before every election'

Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Hamza Shehbaz on Friday lambasted that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders were being arrested before every election, which was beyond understanding.

He said that his father was accused of cancelling [Ashiana Iqbal housing scheme] contract awarded to Lateef & Sons, despite the fact that it was cancelled by Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) board of governors on the basis of its findings.

Hamza dared Prime Minister Imran Khan to go on with the arrest spree "in connivance with the NAB."

"Niazi sahib, arrest as many people as you can in connivance with the NAB. These tactics are not new for the PML-N," he said at the press conference.

The PML-N leader said that his Shehbaz's arrest ahead of by-election was an expression of PM Khan's unease for his "crippled government is hanging in the air."

Arrest made without NA speaker's permission: PML-N

The PML-N Parliamentary Party said Shehbaz Sharif's arrest was made without seeking the permission of the National Assembly speaker.

In a statement, the PML-N Parliamentary Party said that the “unfortunate history of using NAB against political opponents was being repeated.”

The statement added that Shehbaz Sharif had dedicated his life to the prosperity of the nation.

“This arrest which took place close to the by-elections shows that the government is scared of the PML-N.” 

‘Shehbaz's is the first of several prominent arrests’

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Shehbaz's was the first of several prominent arrests which would be made.

The minister emphasised that the process of accountability would move forward and the government had a zero tolerance policy towards corruption. 

While speaking with reporters the minister stressed that the government was neutral and NAB was an independent institution. 

“The government is neutral in this entire matter but we want accountability for those people who have robbed the country. This is an important step towards that accountability,” he said.

Further, Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said, “The services of the former provincial chief minister are bearing fruit now.”

“All members of the former government involved in corruption will soon be behind bars,” he added. “The nation will from now on keep hearing good news,” Chohan further said.

Khursheed Shah condemns Shehbaz’s arrest

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Shah condemned the arrest of Shehbaz Sharif calling it an insult to Parliament.

“The government should avoid politics of revenge and is taking such steps due to the failure of its 100-day programme,” Shah said. 

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was asked about the arrest but did not comment. 

“I wouldn’t want to comment without reading the case and want to leave it at that,” Bilawal told reporters during a news conference. 

The case

Last month, Shehbaz Sharif was summoned by NAB in the Ashiana Housing case while former Lahore Development Authority chairman Ahad Cheema is on judicial remand after having been arrested over the case.

In July, the accountability bureau arrested senior bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad in various corruption cases, including the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case.

Sources revealed that Shehbaz had been summoned in the case after revelations made by Fawad during interrogation.

According to NAB officials, Fawad wrongfully awarded the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme's contract to 'favourites', illegally ordered the shifting of nine CNG stations and also worked in a private bank from 2005 to 2006 without official permission.

Moreover, while being the provincial health secretary, Fawad acquired six mobile health units which were purchased at a higher-than-market rate, a NAB spokesperson said.

Fawad has served as former PM Nawaz Sharif's principal secretary and is considered close to the former premier. He was removed from the post of principal secretary on June 1 this year and was appointed director general of Civil Services Academy, Lahore.

The accused bureaucrat was also being probed by NAB for possession of assets beyond known sources of income.

According to NAB, the contract for the housing scheme was won by a construction company titled Chaudhry Latif and Sons.

However, NAB says then Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his aides awarded the Rs14 billion contract to Lahore Casa Developers — a proxy group of Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, which is said to be owned by Railways Minister Saad Rafique.

Fawad, who was implementation secretary to the chief minister Punjab at the time, levelled charges of wrongdoings against Chaudhry Latif and Sons in order for the contract to be awarded to Casa Developers.

Note: An earlier version of this story misreported that Shehbaz Sharif had been detained in connection with the Saaf Pani case. The error is regretted.