Accountability ‘czar’ Shahzad Akbar resigns

January 25, 2022

Shahzad Akbar was communicated PM Imran Khan’s decision by the principal secretary that his services were no more required

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ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar on Monday announced that he has resigned from his post but will remain associated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

According to Geo News sources, PTI spokespersons on Monday held a meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss Shahzad Akbar’s resignation. The prime minister, while accepting the resignation, avoided talking about the situation but briefly said that “Shahzad Akbar was unable to deliver and his job was to do something else”.

The sources also said that the former accountability czar did not provide PM with full, complete details of graft cases and only offered partial information. Akbar was communicated the PM’s decision that his services were no more required, by the Principal Secretary to the PM.

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The announcement from him came through a message on his Twitter account, wherein he said he has tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Imran Khan. He wrote: “I sincerely hope that the process of accountability will continue under the leadership of PM Imran as per the PTI manifesto. I will remain associated with the party and keep contributing as a member of the legal fraternity.”

Akbar, who is a former deputy prosecutor for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), was made special assistant to the prime minister on Accountability and Interior in August 2018. Afterwards, in July 2020, he was appointed an adviser to the prime minister with the same portfolio. He is believed to have played a key role in the Panama Papers-related money laundering cases in which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was convicted. He had been assigned the task of bringing the PML-N supremo back to Pakistan and pursuing various corruption cases against opposition leaders.

He was also the chairman of the Asset Recovery Unit that was established in 2018 to suggest ways and legal means to bring back looted money stashed abroad as well as probe properties owned by Pakistanis in foreign countries.

Akbar has been holding news conferences, mainly targeting the Sharifs and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, for their alleged corruption. He even held weekly news conferences and then this frequency was reduced gradually.

In his reaction on the development, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said Akbar worked under ‘tremendous pressure’. He wrote, addressing Akbar, “it was never easy to take on mafias but the way you worked and handled cases is admirable. More important work is now awaiting you”.

Later, at a press conference here, Fawad explained ‘administrative’ matters relating to the PTI accountability drive have ended as cases are being deliberated in courts and the resignation would have no impact in this regard. He said Akbar has done a fantastic job and exposed the opposition during a very tough time. He said Akbar would continue to serve as a member of the PTI Core Committee. Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill, meanwhile, wishing all the best to Shahzad Akbar, tweeted that he wanted to pursue his professional career and he would remain related to the party.

Shahbaz Gill had a few days earlier refuted reports of Shahzad Akbar’s resignation. Fakhar Durrani adds: From reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa to bringing back the looted money and holding Sharif and Zardari family accountable for the alleged money laundering, the former Advisor to Prime Minister on Accountability & Interior Barrister Mirza Shahzad Akbar has failed to materialise almost all the promises he made.

Barrister Shahzad Akbar who held three offices at the same time was considered one of the powerful members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet. Soon after coming into power the prime minister assigned him the task of bringing back the looted money and holding the corrupt politicians accountable for their alleged corruption. However, neither the looted money was retrieved nor any alleged corrupt politician has been convicted by Shahzad Akbar-led accountability drive.

Within a month after coming into power, the PTI-led government established a task force to retrieve the ill-gotten money from abroad. The task force headed by Shahzad Akbar was assigned to retrieve the alleged $200 billion stolen money from Pakistan stashed in the offshore bank accounts. Nonetheless, despite passage of more than three years into power, neither Mirza Shahzad Akbar led Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) nor any other government agency succeeded to bring back the promised $200 billion from abroad.

Many political pundits raised the questions on the Mirza Shahzad Akbar-led accountability drive which failed to retrieve the looted money. Apart from bringing back the plundered money, the Shahzad Akbar led accountability team failed to prosecute any accused in money laundering cases. The political pundits believe that the continuous failure in bringing back the stolen money or failed prosecution has caused the removal of the accountability czar from his office as Prime Minister Imran Khan was not happy with his performance.

Before coming into power the main slogan on which PTI Chairman Imran Khan built the entire narrative was that he will hold every corrupt politician accountable and bring back the looted money into Pakistan. However, after the passage of more than three years, even his followers started raising questions that when will their dream of accountability be fulfilled as neither any stolen money has been brought back to the country nor any corrupt politicians were sent behind the bars.

Although Barrister Shahzad Akbar seemed very active and every other week he held press conferences to assure the nation that they have detected money laundering, and soon the looted money will be brought back but these promises and the claims could not be materialised into reality.

It was Barrister Shahzad Akbar who headed the Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) team to collect the evidence against Justice Qazi Faez Isa to file a reference against him. He had confirmed it to The News then that they verified all the evidence against the honorable Judge of the Supreme Court before filing the reference against him.

A perusal of the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa proved that the Prime Minister’s Office through its Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) had played the lead role in verifying the facts, collecting the evidence against members of the higher judiciary and filing the reference before the Supreme Judicial Council.

Shahzad Akbar had told the media that the verification process was sped up so that the information about judges should not be leaked to the media. Interestingly, the Shahzad Akbar-led team completed the investigation process and verified the facts against the honorable judge from UK and Pakistan within 28 days. However, the same speed was not evident in other cases as was displayed in Justice Qazi Faez Isa case.

Shahzad Akbar’s ARU also held investigation into alleged money laundering and fake accounts of Sharif and Zardari family but both the families have not been convicted in any of these cases as of today. It is because of these failures which led Shahzad Akbar’s exit from Imran Khan’s cabinet. Sources claim that the prime minister was not happy with his performance.

The News contacted Mirza Shahzad Akbar to get his point of view on his resignation but he declined the call.



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