Says Zulfikar Ali Bhutto nationalised their factory; Benazir victimised them twice and Musharraf also mistreated them; Punjab CM appears before JIT; probe body interrogates him for four hours
ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Saturday said the Sharif family is facing accountability for the fifth time but no one including a military dictator and political rivals could prove embezzlement of even a single penny against them.
Talking to media persons after his appearance before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), he said he appeared before the probe body constituted by the Supreme Court on a call notice and answered the questions to the best of his knowledge.
"Elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also appeared before the JIT on June 15 and gave his viewpoint making a new chapter in 70-year history of Pakistan. And perhaps it is also for the first time in the history that any chief minister (whom he termed 'Khadim') appeared before the probe body to record his statement," he said.
"Me and the prime minister have upheld the supremacy of law in the country by appearing before the JIT and we have proven that our family has respect for the law, unlike the military rulers who usurped power at gunpoint in the past," he said, adding, "I have history of back pain but I never decided to get admitted in the Rawalpindi hospital or went to London to meet my physicists with an aim never to return.”
He said the Ittefaq Foundry was nationalised on January 2, 1972 and it was not made through licences acquired at Punjab Club parties. “Our father and his seven brothers had laboured, day and night, to lift the company off the ground. The Ittefaq Foundry was producing agricultural goods and even it also produced defence equipment that were used in the wars in 1965 and 1972. Nawaz Sharif and I are proud to be sons of Mian Muhammad Sharif who had a reputation of being an honest person and banks were always ready to provide him loans due to his reputation," he said.
Dilating upon the victimisation of the Sharif family, he said former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto nationalised Ittefaq Foundry and rendered 10,000 workers jobless. He said Zulfikar Bhutto’s daughter also victimised the Sharif family twice and military dictator Pervez Musharraf also did so. He said when Benazir Bhutto became prime minister in 1988 she left no stone unturned to ruin their business.
"When Benazir Bhutto again became prime minister in 1993, her government decided to close down our businesses and it happened as the chimneys of our factories stopped emitting smoke and got dysfunctional," he said, adding, "The Jonathan ship remained standing at the Karachi Port with goods for one year and my father was arrested by the Benazir Bhutto government."
Shahbaz Sharif said he was disclosing it for the first time that he was also handcuffed along with Nawaz Sharif during the era of military dictator Pervez Musharraf and all this happened to the elected people of Pakistan.
He said, "We are carrying out road projects like Metro Bus Service and Orange Line Train and power projects worth billions of rupees and there is no corruption case against us. We have instead saved Rs200 billion in these projects due to our firm commitment for progress of this country."
Reiterating the point earlier raised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after his appearance before the JIT, he said that the JIT is not investigating a corruption case against them, adding, "No corruption case has ever been proved against us and I say it will not happen in the future as well because we have done nothing wrong."
"Our Ittefaq Foundry was ruined but we paid back its loan worth nearly Rs6 billion and tell me has this ever happened in this country. We have not waived off our loans or got concessions on interests and on the other hand there are people who looted the money of orphans and widows and made houses and properties in London and Canada and started businesses in Dubai," he said.
He also referred to the corruption case against former chairman of the Employees Old Age Benefit Institution (EOBI), the brother of Nazar Muhammad Gondal who has recently joined Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He said the corrupt practices of the previous government in Nandipur Power Project, Rental Power Project, NICL and Neelum-Jhelum Power project have caused losses to the country.
Earlier, Shahbaz Sharif for the first time appeared before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that interrogated him for four hours and recorded his statement in the context of PanamaLeaks.
Shahbaz Sharif, accompanied by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, arrived at Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) approximately at 11:00am. He was the fourth member of the Sharif family who appeared before the JIT. On June 15, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was questioned by the probe team. Hussain Nawaz has already appeared five times and Hassan Nawaz twice before the JIT.
Around 2,547 personnel of Police, Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and Intelligence Bureau were deployed on various spots to provide fool-proof security to the Punjab chief minister. Most of the roads of Sector H-8 remained closed for general traffic unless Shahbaz Sharif departed from the FJA after his appearance before the JIT.
The chief minister on his return held a meeting with Nawaz Sharif and informed him about the details of his appearance before the JIT.
Sources said Shahbaz Sharif during the initial interaction gently asked the JIT members that he would give reply to all their queries and provide all the documents sought by them despite the fact that he and his family members have not been mentioned in PanamaLeaks.
"The chief minister was asked to provide details of their business and properties along with their tax returns. He informed the JIT that all such details have also been provided to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and are available on its official website," the sources said.
The sources added that the interrogation that started with the question about the Gulf Steel Mills, which was established by the Sharif family in Dubai in 1973, focused on the mills that were established during first tenure of the Sharif family in the government. Shahbaz Sharif informed the probe body that his father distributed the assets among seven families and the steel mills remained the only joint asset while the Sharif family set up Hudaibya Paper Mills, Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Hudaibya Engineering and Mehran Ramazan Textile Mills from 1990 to 1993.
According to a document presented by the chief minister, three other mills -- Ittefaq Foundries, Ittefaq Brothers and Brothers Steel Mills -- were closed down in second tenure of Benazir Bhutto-led PPP government and loans were paid after selling these mills.
"The Sharif family had paid Rs5.228 billion in December 2014 under the head of all loans, markup, cost of fund and other charges payable by Ittefaq Foundry and a consortium of banks also issued clearance certificate in this regard," the documents said.
The sources said the JIT members also sought details from Shahbaz Sharif about the businesses being carried out by his sons Hamza Shahbaz Sharif and Salman Shahbaz Sharif. They said the JIT members who thoroughly reviewed the inquiry reports regarding alleged money laundering through Hudaibya Paper Mills have been continuously trying to ascertain whether this money had any kind of connection with the London Mayfair flats.
An accountability court in September 2014 acquitted Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and other members of Sharif family of all charges pertaining to a money laundering and illegal asset ownership reference filed in 2000.
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