Saturday, November 18, 2023

Shehbaz Sharif acquitted in Ashiana Housing scam

Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hassan Fawad also among accused who have been declared innocent by court

Pakistans Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during the COP27 climate summit in Egypts Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt November 8, 2022. — Reuters
Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during the COP27 climate summit in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt November 8, 2022. — Reuters 

  • Court also declares Ahad Cheema, Fawad Hassan innocent. 
  • NAB said it found no evidence of corruption by Shehbaz Sharif.
  • ATC Judge Zulqarnain Awan reserved verdict on November 2.

LAHORE: Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and 10 others have been acquitted in the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme reference by a Lahore accountability court, Geo News reported Saturday.

Incumbent federal minister Ahad Cheema and Fawad Hassan Fawad were also among the accused who had been declared innocent by the court.

On November 2, Judge Malik Ali Zulqarnain Awan of the accountability court reserved the verdict after concluding the final arguments presented by the counsels and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutors on acquittal pleas.

The acquittal applications argued that all prosecution witnesses and the approvers had withdrawn their statements, indicating no possibility of conviction in the reference. The applicants urged the court to approve the applications and clear them of the charges.

In a report filed in May, the NAB informed the court that it had found no evidence of financial corruption or misuse of authority by Shehbaz Sharif.

The report stated that the allegations of misuse of authority and corruption against the former prime minister were not substantiated under the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999.

NAB had filed the reference in 2018, alleging that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and other accused had caused a massive financial loss to the national kitty by awarding the contract to a construction firm without a competitive bidding process.

Sharif was arrested on Oct 5, 2018, in connection with the case when he appeared before the accountability bureau in another matter while Cheema was taken into custody on February 21 of the same year. Both of them were later released on bail.

Earlier, Kamran Kiyani, the brother of former army chief Ashfaque Parvez Kiyani, and Nadeem Zia of Paragon City were acquitted by the court due to a “lack of evidence”.

The NAB alleged that Cheema received illegal benefits from the owners of Paragon City Developers as a reward for awarding the housing scheme contract to their proxy firm, Bismillah Engineering.