Tuesday Sep 28, 2021
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar asked the media to stop twisting facts and report responsibly in a press conference to clarify the "incorrect" impression of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif and his son Suleman being "acquitted" from a UK court in a money laundering case.
"Having differences with someone is something else, but it is your [the media's] responsibility to report realities how they are, no matter whose favour it is or isn't in," Akbar said, adding that no journalist can be stopped from reporting the reality by any law or institution.
But journalists also have a responsibility to present facts as they are and not twist them, he said.
He said there is no money laundering case against Shahbaz Sharif in London, clarifying that there are two cases of money laundering against Shahbaz and his family in Pakistan.
Akbar again refuted reports of an "acquittal" of the PML-N president and his son Suleman Shahbaz in a money laundering case from a London court.
He said that reports about the alleged acquittal of Shehbaz or his son Suleman are "incorrect and misreporting".
“The investigation by the NCA against Suleman Shahbaz and some of his family members was not initiated at the request of the [Asset Recovery Unit] ARU or NAB,” he said saying that it was a result of a suspicious transaction reported by a bank to the NCA.
According to Akbar, certain funds were transferred by Suleman Shahbaz from Pakistan to UK in 2019 which were declared as a suspicious transaction by the UK authorities and the NCA secured an asset freezing order (AFO) from the court against these funds.
However, he said that recently the NCA decided to stop investigating these funds and therefore, agreed to release them through the court.
Akbar further clarified that such a release order is not an acknowledgment that funds are from a legitimate source.
“There is no acquittal of any sort as reported as there was no trial! Funds were frozen by the NCA and the NCA has decided to not investigate these funds anymore,” he said, adding that Suleman remains a fugitive in a money laundering case against him and his father before the accountability court in Lahore.
Shortly after his press conference, Akbar attached on Twitter pictures of the Westminster Magistrate Court's order from September 10 to lift the AFO against two accounts of Suleman Shahbaz.
He questioned where it said Shahbaz Sharif was acquitted of money laundering. "Cheap tricks won’t work. Shahbaz still needs to answer in courts in Pakistan," Akbar said.
During his press conference on Tuesday, Akbar repeated that the media gave a portrayal of acquittal of Shahbaz Sharif. He said that the narrative of corruption and money laundering built in the country was not based on an asset freezing order by the NCA.
"The government has this information since December. To date, have you heard any government representative saying that Suleman Shahbaz or Shahbaz Sharif are being investigated?" he asked, saying that these are UK's internal investigations and Pakistan has only cooperated.
Technical details are important, Akbar emphasised, saying that the story was that an AFO was issued and then those assets were released. "There is no other story apart from this so don't look for a story within a story," the PM's adviser advised.
There was no mention of Shahbaz Sharif in the UK court order, Akbar said, adding that the order was for Suleman Shahbaz and the media gave the impression that Shehbaz Sharif had been acquitted when his name wasn't even mentioned.
Giving a clarification on a letter written by the Asset Recovery Unit of Pakistan on December 11, 2019 to NCA, Akbar said that the PML-N's narrative based on this letter that the Pakistan government initiated these cases, is a lie.
That letter was a response to the NCA on some queries it had, Akbar said, adding that the NCA had asked questions about any ongoing investigation in Pakistan against several people, which also included the Sharif family. In response, the Pakistan government shared details of the ongoing cases.
"This was the NCA's mechanism. So saying Pakistan initiated something is incorrect," he emphasised.