Saturday, May 20, 2023
LAHORE: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Saturday declared Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif "innocent" in the Ashiana Housing case, adding that no evidence of corruption was found in the contract of the scheme.
According to a report issued by the accountability bureau, there was no loss to the national kitty nor did PM Shehbaz get any financial benefit from the project.
“It is proved beyond any doubt that the treasury didn't suffer any loss,” the anti-graft body concluded in its report.
Moreover, it asserted: “No evidence of misuse of powers was found against Shahbaz Sharif.”
The NAB report — which is likely to spark controversy over the impartiality of the corruption watchdog — stated that no aspect of malice was proven against the prime minister in the scandal.
Furthermore, the report stated that Kamran Kayani, brother of former army chief General (retd) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, also didn't cause any damage to the treasury.
Moreover, the report found that Fawad Hasan Fawad — who at the time was Secretary Implementation to then-Punjab chief minister Shehbaz — took no bribe to award the contract.
The report added that PM Shehbaz had sent Ashiana case to the anti-corruption watchdog as per the law.
“The accountability court should decide on Shehbaz Sharif's plea for acquittal according to the law,” the report concluded.
It must be noted that this is the second major NAB case against the prime minister in which he was found innocent.
Earlier this month, the anti-graft watchdog had declared Prime Minister Shehbaz, his son Hamza Shehbaz and others “innocent” in Rs7 billion references against them for assets beyond means and money laundering filed against them.
When it was launched in 2011, the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme was touted as a low-cost housing scheme.
However, soon accusations of irregularity started to pop up as inexplicable delays in ballots and the allotment of completed units began to crop up.
After several years, in 2018, several high-profile politicians came under fire for alleged corruption and misuse of fire, leading to an inquiry by the anti-graft watchdog.
Amongst those accused was PM Shehbaz, who had allegedly misused his powers during his stint as Punjab chief minister in an inquiry pertaining to the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC).
An inquiry conducted in 2018 claimed that Shehbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab had unlawfully assumed powers of the Board of Directors of Punjab Land and Development Company (PLDC), misused his authority, and acted in connivance with Fawad and others.
Contracts awarded to M/s Ch. A Latif and Sons for the development and infrastructure of the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Project were illegally cancelled and awarded to Lahore Casa Developers (LCD), a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited.
Moreover, it was alleged that in a meeting on October 21, 2014, the former CM unlawfully directed PLDC to entrust the project of Ashiana Iqbal Punjab to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) — which was headed by his close aide Ahad Khan Cheema.
This decision of Sharif was considered mala fide as the PLDC was the company that was established for undertaking such housing projects.
All three of the main accused were among those arrested — and subsequently released — during the investigation in 2018.
In September last year, the accountability court — on the PM’s application — granted him a permanent exemption from appearance in the reference.