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Imran finally faces NAB

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August 8, 2018

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PESHAWAR: The combined investigation team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on Tuesday questioned the prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan for more than an hour in connection with the misuse of two official helicopters.

An official of the NAB told The News that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman was questioned by the five-member team in an inquiry pertaining to the alleged illegal use of two helicopters owned by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

Before the session, the PTI chairman submitted documents related to the case to the investigation team through his lawyer Babar Awan. Former chief minister Pervaiz Khattak, former provincial assembly speaker Asad Qaiser and MNA-elect from Karachi Ali Zaidi also accompanied Imran Khan when he came to the NAB's regional office in Peshawar’s Hayatabad locality.

Salma Begum, a spokesperson for the KP NAB, said a questionnaire containing seven questions was handed over to Imran Khan. She said that Imran Khan recorded his verbal statement before the combined investigation team led by NAB’s director investigation about the questions handed over to him. “The questionnaire needs to be completed and submitted within 15 days,” the spokesperson said.

She added that Imran Khan thanked the NAB for summoning him in the case and said that everyone was equal before the law. Strict security measures were taken in and around the NAB offices in Peshawar. Security was also tightened in Hayatabad and surrounding areas before the arrival of the prime minister-in-waiting.

Members of the media had gathered outside the main entrance of the NAB regional headquarters in the hope of talking to Imran Khan. However, his vehicle, being driven by Pervaiz Khattak, did not stop to talk to the media after appearing before the investigation team.

Ali Zaidi, the MNA-elect, later posted a video showing Imran Khan being driven by Pervaiz Khattak in a vehicle in Peshawar without protocol. Asad Qaiser and Babar Awan were also seated in the vehicle.

About 50 PTI workers had also assembled outside the NAB offices. They waited for about one hour for their leader, but it was difficult for them to catch his glimpse as he was sitting in a black Land Cruiser with tinted glasses. The vehicle didn’t stop while entering the NAB premises or when leaving. The road outside the NAB building was also closed for traffic for an hour.

On August 3, the KP NAB had summoned Imran Khan to appear before its combined investigation team on August 7. Certain government officials and Pervaiz Khattak have already appeared before the combined investigation team in the same inquiry.

Both Imran Khan and the PTI government in KP had denied any misuse of the two official helicopters. They maintained that the helicopters weren’t used by Imran Khan for any personal purpose.

The NAB had claimed that there was documentary evidence that Imran Khan had paid Rs2.1 million for using the Mi-17 and the Ecureuil helicopters belonging to the KP government for a total of 74 hours. It pointed out that this amounted to Rs28,000 spent for every hour the helicopters were used though the amount to be paid is much higher and in millions.

Meanwhile, amid serious differences among senior leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over the appointment of KP chief minister, Imran Khan on Tuesday told his party’s newly-elected legislators that he would appoint the chief minister on merit.

He said it is a difficult time for the party, which needs sacrifices. He also urged them to stop grouping within the party for the office of the chief minister. It was his first visit to Peshawar after his party swept KP in the July 25 general elections.

After appearing before the NAB team, Imran addressed the PTI parliamentary party meeting. Senior PTI leaders told The News that purpose of Imran Khan’s interaction with the legislators was to convey to them his vision for the future.

Media people were not invited to the event. Some of the parliamentarians after attending the meeting shared information of the event with journalists. According to them, Imran Khan spoke for about 20 minutes and urged the legislators to shun differences and grouping within the PTI.

Though he didn’t mention anyone, he was apparently referring to the ongoing lobbying launched by some of the senior party leaders for the chief minister's slot.

According to well-placed sources in the party, there are still serious differences among these leaders as to who should get the chief minister’s position. They said Pervaiz Khattak first lobbied for the chief minister’s position, but changed tactics when Imran Khan made it clear to him and three other PTI parliamentarians from KP, including Asad Qaisar, Dr Haider Ali and Ali Amin Gandapur that he wanted them to take their seats in the National Assembly. Khattak now reportedly wants Imran Khan to appoint former sports minister from Swat Mehmood Khan as the chief minister.

Most of the above-mentioned legislators were elected on two seats, one National Assembly and one provincial assembly. Pervaiz Khattak was the only one who won one National Assembly and two provincial assembly seats.

Pervaiz Khattak and Asad Qaisar wanted to stay in KP as both had their eyes on the chief minister’s job. “Imran Khan is well aware of the differences in the party in KP and that’s why he clearly announced that he would name the next chief minister on merit and not under pressure of the party people,” said an insider of the party.

Pleading anonymity, he said that before proposing Mehmood Khan’s name, Pervaiz Khattak reportedly tried to convince Imran Khan to nominate Asad Qaisar as chief minister instead of Muhammad Atif Khan, the former education and power and energy minister.

Atif Khan belongs to Mardan and he also contested on two seats. However, he lost his National Assembly seat to former chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti by a small margin. Atif retained his provincial assembly seat. If he had won the National Assembly seat, he too may have been called to the Centre where the PTI needs as many MNAs as possible to strengthen its majority in the National Assembly.

According to sources, Imran had refused to give any responsibility to Asad Qaisar in KP due to reasons best known to him. He hasn’t even told his close circles about his choice for the KP chief minister.

Some of the people close to Imran, however, claim that Atif Khan was previously the top choice for the chief minister’s job.

“Now when Pervaiz Khattak, Asad Qaisar and Atif Khan had publicly started opposing each other, it has become difficult for Imran Khan to take a decision,” said a senior PTI member. He said it was a test for Imran Khan to prove himself an independent party leader and take decisions without being influenced or blackmailed by the party leaders.

Asked about the reason of differences between Pervaiz Khattak and Atif Khan, a senior PTI office-bearer argued, “Pervaiz Khattak wanted a weak chief minister in KP so that he could call the shots and dictate him.”

He claimed that some people in the PTI were putting pressure on Imran Khan to select someone other than the two camps, one led by Pervaiz Khattak and the other by Atif Khan. “And that person is probably Mehmood Khan from Swat. Unfortunately, Mehmood Khan had not shown good performance as sports minister and, therefore, it would be difficult for Imran to hand him over the entire province,” said the PTI leader.

In his speech to the legislators, Imran Khan, however, said it was his responsibility to appoint the chief minister and ministers, assuring them that everything would be done on merit. He made it clear that gone were the days when people used to be elected for seeking pleasures and perks and privileges.

Imran Khan said people had attached great expectations with them and they would need hard work in the next five years of their government to come up to the expectations of the masses. The PTI chief said he would make the chief ministers and ministers accountable for their work. He said everybody would be given targets and questioned later for their progress.

Imran Khan said the ministers would need to be punctual and would be required to get into their offices by 9:00am. He said he was determined to bring a change in the country in the next five years.

Imran Khan told them that he would curtail expenses as he and his ministers would lead a simple life to reduce the burden on national exchequer.

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