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pakistan
Tuesday Jul 14 2020
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NAB to begin fresh probe into Nawaz, Shehbaz in undisclosed cases

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif (left) listening to his brother, then chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, before addressing the newly elected lawmakers belonging to PML-N, during a gathering in Lahore, on May 20, 2013. — Reuters

The National Accountability Bureau has approved fresh inquiries into a number of high-profile individuals including PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, while also ordering shut an illegal allotment probe against the latter due to a lack of evidence.

The decision by the anti-graft watchdog came on Tuesday during a meeting in Islamabad of the executive board.

The executive board meeting was attended by the NAB deputy chairman, prosecutor general, director-general operations and other senior officials of the Bureau.

"All inquiries and investigations have been ordered on the basis of accusations raised and are in no way final or binding," said a statement issued by NAB.

"NAB will strive to obtain the stance of all those involved, as per the law, after which it will decide whether or not to proceed with the inquiry," it added.

According to the statement, an investigation into Nawaz Sharif has been approved. The notice however made no mention of the nature of the probe.

It also approved inquiries against former chief minister of Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, former senator Sartaj Aziz, former deputy inspector general of traffic police in Punjab Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan and others, member of the Punjab Assembly Meher Hamid Rasheed, developer of Heaven Villas in Faisalabad Meher Abdul Rauf and others, former members of the Punjab Assembly Ateeq-ur-Rehman and Sheikh Ijaz Ahmed and others and the defaulting PhD scholars of University of Punjab.

Additionally, it accorded approval for a probe into illegal activities by chief executive of Earth Resource Private Limited (ERPL) and others who have been accused of taking undue advantage of their position for their benefit.

However, investigations against Shehbaz, former secretary to chief minister of Punjab Javed Mahmood, former director-general Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Ahad Khan Cheema and others and inquiries against the management, officers and members of the environment management company Faisalabad Industrial Estate and Development Management Company (FIEDMC), the Punjab Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (PIEDMC), Lahore Transport Company, Punjab Municipal Development Fund Company, Gujranwala West Management Company for illegal allotment of land were ordered shut due to a lack of evidence, as per the law.

NAB chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal said that NAB is making utmost efforts to rid the country of illegal acitivities and corruption.

"NAB's foremost priority is to see to the conclusion of mega corruption cases," the press release quoted him as saying.

According to the statement, the anti-graft watchdog has deposited Rs466 billion into the national exchequer recovered directly or indirectly while probing unlawful elements "which is a record achievement".

In December 2018, Nawaz was handed seven years in jail by an accountability court in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case.

He is currently in London, where he went on bail in November 2019, for a four-week period to receive medical treatment. The government, however, did not allow an extension in his stay.

Nawaz has also been named in the Toshakhana vehicles case which has accused him of illegally bending the gift depository's rules for his own benefit to retain luxury gifts. He has been summoned by NAB for inquiry on multiple occasions and the accountability court has issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for him, noting his continued absence from court.

An advertisement for Nawaz's summons has been put up on the acountability court premises in Islamabad. The court has given the former premier one last chance and asked that he appear before it on August 17 to answer for the reference filed against him.

Proceedings to declare Nawaz a proclaimed offender are underway.

Meanwhile, Shehbaz is facing multiple cases pertaining to money laundering, corruption, and assets beyond known sources of income.

He had joined his brother in London but returned to Pakistan in March and has since been regularly summoned by the Bureau.

After being diagnosed COVID-19 positive in June, Shehbaz sought an exemption from NAB hearings. He recovered earlier this month.