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Wednesday Feb 20 2019
Web Desk

NAB arrests Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in corruption case

Web Desk
Durrani was arrested from a private hotel in Islamabad. Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday arrested Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani and secured his three-day transit remand.

Durrani, who was under investigation in three cases pertaining to illegal appointments, accumulating assets beyond means, and embezzlement of funds, was arrested from a private hotel in Islamabad and taken to the NAB office in Rawalpindi.

Later, the NAB officials presented the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader before an accountability court and sought his seven-day transit remand. "The relevant authority issued Durrani's arrest warrants and references against him are ongoing in Karachi," NAB officials told the court.

As the court refused to grant seven-day transit remand, NAB officials said, "We will take him to Karachi today or tomorrow and asked for more time owing to bad weather." Durrani then told the court, "I was scheduled to depart for Karachi at 7pm today."

The court then ordered that Durrani's medical examination be conducted today and granted NAB three-day transit remand of the Sindh Assembly speaker. The accountability court directed that Durrani be presented before a relevant court in Karachi after three days.

A letter from NAB to the Secretary Sindh Assembly said Durrani had been arrested "due to his involvement in the offence of corruption and corrupt practices as Minister Local Government, Govt of Sindh and Speaker, Sindh Assembly".

"He has been charged for accumulation of assets beyond known sources of income which he could not reasonably account for," said the letter.

NAB had initiated three separate inquiries against Durrani last year for allegedly owning assets beyond means, illegally recruiting 352 individuals on various government positions and embezzlement of funds for the construction of the MPA Hostel and construction of the new Sindh Assembly building.

Sources said, "The decision to arrest Durrani was taken during a meeting in which NAB officials were informed that the PPP leader is currently in Islamabad."

Durrani was re-elected as Sindh Assembly speaker in August 2018.

Durrani shifted to NAB office in Karachi

Later in the day, NAB officials took Durrani to Karachi from Islamabad airport.

The Sindh Assembly speaker was shifted to NAB office in the megapolis, which had stringent security measures in place.

NAB team searches Durrani's residence

A team officials also raided the provincial assembly speaker's residence in Karachi and searched the house for several hours.

The team left late Wednesday with belongings taken in three boxes, Geo News has learnt.

Arrest an unacceptable attempt to dislodge Sindh govt: Bilawal

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted, "Hum Baynami wazeer-e-azam ko baywardi Aamriat Qaaim nahi karnay dainga [We will not let a fake prime minister be a dictator without a uniform]."

"Attack on speaker of federating unit is [an] unacceptable, undemocratic attempt to dislodge Sindh govt. Failed before will fail again. Independent institutions shouldn't unwittingly be part of political engineering," he added.

Journalists weigh in

Commenting on the development, senior journalist Hamid Mir told Geo News, “This case was under investigation and it doesn’t seem this is a message for PPP but for all political parties. According to our reports, NAB is going to arrest some important personalities." 

"In the coming days, NAB may take important personalities from the government and opposition into their custody.”

“This is an important arrest," said senior journalist Mazhar Abbas. "Yesterday the Supreme Court dismissed review petitions of Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur. This signals that others including Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah can be arrested. This could lead to the collapse of the Sindh government.” 

What message is NAB trying to send, asks Murtaza Wahab

Sindh Chief Minister's Adviser on Information Murtaza Wahab criticised NAB for arresting Durrani and questioned what message they are trying to send.

Addressing the media in Karachi, Wahab said, “What message are you trying to convey by arresting a sitting speaker?”

“If any of our members have been involved in corruption then conduct an inquiry against them but do not arrest them like this,” he lashed out

Questioning whether NAB laws are only for PPP, Wahab said, “Are there different rules for PPP and different for PTI? Prime Minister Imran Khan, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak and NA Speaker Asad Qaiser are all facing NAB inquiries but have not been arrested.".