LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) President Shehbaz Sharif told an accountability court on Wednesday that unlike other leaders, he never drew salary or allowances as the prime minister or chief minister Punjab.
While appearing in a NAB court, he also claimed that he always personally bore his travel and hotel expenses while being head of the federal and provincial governments.
Appearing before the accountability court in connection with the Ramzan Sugar Mills reference, Shehbaz said he had always served the people of Pakistan with absolute honesty and left no stone unturned to save every penny of the public money.
During the proceedings, he presented facts and evidence related to the Saaf Pani Company and Ashiana cases before the court.
Alleging political victimisation, Shehbaz highlighted instances of fiscal responsibility in saving the national treasury.
“I was summoned in the Saaf Pani reference but was arrested in Ashiana case. Thank God, I was acquitted in the Ashiana case,” he added.
He expressed gratitude to the court for upholding justice and providing him with a fair trial. “I am thankful to have received justice from here. Later, I was arrested in the same case related to the Ganda Nala [drain] and accused of constructing it as the chief minister for benefit of my son’s mill,” he added. Shehbaz mentioned that it was based on a written request from an MPA, who had passed away. “Numerous projects, including public amenities like clean water, were executed during my tenure.”
He said “various projects [industrial units], inherited from my father, have been transferred to my children by me. I have never been a director of the mill, nor do I receive any benefits or hold any shares,” Shehbaz Sharif affirmed.
The total cost of the drain project was Rs160-180 million, which was raised to Rs1 billion in the court by imposing the Excise Duty, etc. The Lahore High Court issued a stay order, and Rs1 billion were deposited in the court. “The PTI government withdrew that duty in February 2019,” he added.
He pointed out the annual difference in sugarcane prices between Punjab and Sindh, asserting that his government did not reduce prices to the detriment of farmers. In 2014-15, the Punjab government set sugarcane prices at Rs182/maund, while Sindh set it at Rs180/maund. However, the Sindh government later reduced it to Rs155/maund.
The former premier clarified that he did not reduce the prices in Punjab, ensuring no harm to farmers. He emphasised that his decision saved the national treasury from any losses, and the mill owners paid Rs12 billion to farmers.
Shehbaz said that unlike previous leaders, he did not draw a salary or allowances as the prime minister or chief minister. He also personally bore his travel and hotel expenses.
In conclusion, Shehbaz Sharif said he was not claiming to be perfect, but he had always served the people with absolute honesty and had strived to save every penny of the public money. He expressed humility and hope that the esteemed court would consider the facts and issue a decision in accordance with the principles of justice.
Later, talking to the media outside the court, he stressed the need for holding the next general election on time. He said on-time elections were a requirement of law and democracy.
He said the PMLN supremo, Nawaz Sharif, would announce the party manifesto during the election campaign. They would start electioneering with full preparation very soon.
About the allegations levelled by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) about lack of equal opportunities to contest the upcoming polls, Shehbaz said today he went to the court while Nawaz Sharif also appeared in an Islamabad court, which was manifestation of level playing field.
The former premier said the Sharif family suffered hardships, but Nawaz Sharif still bowed before the law. “Nawaz Sharif ended his exile and came back to Pakistan. We always respected the judiciary,” he added.
To a question, Shehbaz said facilitating perpetrators of the May-9 events would be an anti-national act. “A conspiracy to overthrow the army leadership was hatched on May 9 and any democratic government will not tolerate treason,” he stressed.
Ghazala Gola is PPP President Women Wing Balochistan and former provincial minister of Balochistan
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