Tuesday Dec 29, 2020
PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif has been arrested by the National Accountability Bureau in Islamabad, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed Tuesday evening.
Asif has been taken into custody in the backdrop of an ongoing investigation into allegations of him possessing assets beyond known sources of income.
Aurangzeb said he was arrested from near PML-N general secretary Ahsan Iqbal's house.
He has been taken to the NAB Rawalpindi office, sources said.
According to Geo News, was underway to debate whether PML-N will take part in senate elections. Asif left the meeting and was moments later arrested near Iqbal's residence.
Aurangzeb said Asif will be presented before an Islamabad accountability court tomorrow for remand.
Geo News anchor Hamid Mir on his show "Capital Talk" said that the former foreign minister knew he would be arrested and had even made preparations beforehand for what he considered an "eventuality".
"He had prepared a bag as well and would say that the NAB would arrest him soon," said Mir.
When prompted by the anchor to comment whether Asif's arrest was a "reactionary move" to Maryam Nawaz's speech in Larkana on Sunday, Muhammad Zubair, who had also left the meeting to appear on the show, said: "Of course. When the popularity and impact (of the PDM) is on the rise, we knew that they would react in some way. And today, we have seen that reaction."
Also see: Maryam's address in Larkana
Zubair further said that people were questioning Sheikh Rasheed's appointment and "now we have seen his first shot against us as interior minister".
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif termed Asif's arrest "a drama the likes of which he had never seen in his life".
"What accountability is this? [...] if they think with such tactics the PDM will be weakened, they have no clue. They do not know how to run a country or what accountability is or where they are taking Pakistan," he said, speaking to reporters in London.
He said PM Imran Khan had himself "admitted" to his "inexperience" and that "time is required before taking over the government's reins".
"Then why have you come?" Nawaz asked.
Maryam Nawaz held a press conference shortly after Asif's arrest, calling it an "abduction".
She said NAB was "lurking around, waiting to pounce" and arrested him right around the bend from Iqbal's house.
The PML-N vice president said that arresting someone like this, in an asset beyond means case, "is done when you have nothing on someone [...] you then make use of a vague thing to arrest someone".
She said the government was making such decisions "while trembling in fear of losing".
Maryam said that Asif told him a few days ago that "someone from NAB" had called him over and asked him to "leave Nawaz Sharif" and his cases "would be wrapped up in 15-20 days" but he said he has a life-long association with the PML-N supremo and would "never leave his side".
"Khawaja Asif told them they can do what they wish [...] he was told he will have to face the consequences [...] and then this happens a few days later," she said.
Maryam said the people look to the judiciary and still have hope that they would ensure justice is provided in Pakistan.
She said the government is mistaken if they think that the can put the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (Shahbaz Sharif) and Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly (Hamza Shahbaz) in jail and now arrest PML-N's parliamentary leader and influence the party's decision to resign from the assemblies.
The PML-N vice president said she has received 159 resignations from Punjab lawmakers — save from one MPA on a ventilator — and almost all from the National Assembly lawmakers, except for one.
She said PML-N will remain "undeterred" and "will not let this go easily".
Later, in a tweet, Maryam said that the "condemnable incident" points towards the "selectors and selected being hand in glove".
"We can see with such crude tactics how afraid the government is and how they themselves are bringing their own end near. The days of blind revenge are numbered," she wrote.
Later in the night, NAB Lahore released a statement confirming that the PML-N leader was arrested in pursuance of an investigation into assets beyond known sources of income.
According to the statement, Asif will be produced before an accountability court in Islamabad for transit remand.
An investigation is underway against the accused under Section (V) of National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 and Section (3) of Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, said the statement.
"Accused Khawaja Asif allegedly made assets in excess of his income while concealing the nature, means and transfer of assets," according to the NAB Lahore statement.
The statement noted that Asif had become a senator in 1991, later served as a federal minister and was also an MNA in different government tenures.
Before holding public office, his total assets were Rs5.1 million (Rs51 lakh) in 1991. However, after holding various positions till 2018, his assets reached Rs221 million (Rs22.1 crore) which does not match his apparent income, said the statement.
It further stated that Asif claimed to have earned Rs130 million (Rs13 crore) from a job in a UAE firm called M/S IMECO. However, during interrogations, he could not produce any concrete evidence of this amount as salary.
"It clearly shows that the accused wanted to prove his assets through fake sources of income," said the statement.
NAB alleged that Asif is also running a company under the name of his employee, Tariq Mir, named "Tariq Mir and Co." in whose bank account a heft sum of Rs400 million (Rs40 crore) was deposited but no sources for the funds could be provided.
It noted that the matter of his employment abroad had been the subject of court hearings by the Supreme Court as well as the High Court where it was observed there is "no legal restriction" in holding public office alongside being privately employed.
The purpose of the NAB inquiry was to find out whether the foreign income declared by Khawaja Asif was correct or not, said the statement.
NAB, in its statement said that its inquiry "revealed that the accused Khawaja Asif was in Pakistan during the alleged period of employment abroad while the documents of employment abroad were furnished only to declare fake sources of income".
It said "no paper trail" of his income from his employment abroad was provided.