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December 7, 2018

Shahbaz sent to jail after NAB plea for remand extension rejected

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December 7, 2018

LAHORE: An accountability court on Thursday sent former Punjab chief minister and Opposition leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif to jail on judicial remand in the Ashiana Housing Scheme scam.

Shahbaz Sharif, who was in NAB’s custody for more than 60 days, now will be shifted to the Kot Lakhpat Jail and will be produced again before the court on December 13. The NAB officials produced Shahbaz before the court of accountability judge Syed Najam-ul-Hassan and sought extension in physical remand of the accused to carry out further investigation. The NAB’s prosecutor informed the court that during the investigations it has been revealed that one Masror Anwer over the period of time deposited Rs 50 million in the account of Shahbaz Sharif. Apart from the said information NAB’s prosecutor was unable to bring any new information before the court.

On the other end, Shahbaz’s counsel Amjad Parvez justified tax returns of Shahbaz Sharif. The counsel argued that his client’s spendings were within slab of his income. He stated that all the income and finance details of his client from 2011 to 2017 are clearly mentioned in his tax returns. Moreover, tax laws did not require mentioning details of gifts, the counsel added. Amjad Parvez further argued that his client withdrawn money from his personal account which is not a crime.

Negating NAB’s argument related to Masror Anwer, Shahbaz’s counsel said that Masoor Anwer is not any mysterious character; he is an employee of Ramzan Sugar Mills. The counsel argued amount deposited by Masror Anwer is a legal money and part of the tax returns. He said the NAB has details of Masror Anwer since October and NAB is bringing it today on record this baseless argument. It is nothing but a malafide intention of the bureau just to get extension in physical remand of his client, the counsel argued.

Earlier, Parvez had argued that there is no link of Shahbaz’s tax returns with Ashiana investigations and there is no crime in giving gifts after selling properties in England. The counsel argued his client’s expenses are within limits of income and implored the court to refuse NAB’s plea for extension in physical remand of his client. NAB has completely failed to prove anything which exceeds his client’s income, Amjad concluded.

The court after hearing arguments of both parties declined NAB’s plea of extension in physical remand of Shahbaz Sharif and ordered sending Shahbaz to jail on judicial remand.

As per the National Accountability Bureau, the Ashiana Housing project was awarded to Chaudhry Latif and Sons after approval from the PLDC Board of Directors and through open bidding. The contract was awarded to the said company on January 24, 2013 and a sum of Rs 75 million was paid to the construction firm as advance mobilisation. Chaudhry Latif and Sons started their construction work and no other bidder challenged the award of the contract within 15 days as per PEPRA rules.

As per NAB’s claim on February 25, 2013, Shahbaz illegally ordered an inquiry on a bogus complaint and constituted an inquiry committee headed by Tariq Bajwa to look into any wrongdoing in awarding the contract. Bajwa, the then finance secretary, completed the audit and submitted his report on March 5, 2013. As per the committee report, the contract was awarded as per PEPRA rules with some minor irregularities, the prosecutor added. He said Shahbaz illegally assumed the powers of PLDC Board of Directors and referred the matter to the Anti-Corruption Establishment with the help of co-accused Fawad Hassan Fawad.

As per NAB, Bajwa, the then finance secretary, completed the audit and submitted his report on March 5, 2013. As per the committee report, the contract was awarded as per PEPRA rules with some minor irregularities. Moreover, according to the NAB investigation, the bogus complaint was filed by the Canpro Services Private Limited which paid bribe worth millions to Fawad, the-then secretary implementation, to cancel the contract.

It is pertinent to mention that the Canpro Services Private Limited is said to be owned by Kamran Kayani – the brother of former army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The NAB has alleged that Shahbaz, while chairing a meeting, illegally ordered the transfer of Ashiana project to the LDA from PLDC which was constituted to complete projects like Ashiana and only its Board of Directors had the authority to take decision. After getting the project, the LDA handed over the Ashiana project to Bismillah Engineering, which is allegedly a proxy company of Paragon City.

Our correspondent adds that the city police resorted to baton charge the PML-N workers who tried to remove barriers to enter the Accountability Court premises when the party president Shahbaz Sharif was presented before the court here Thursday.

A large number of PML-N workers, including women and leaders were present on the occasion. They were chanting slogans in favour of their leaders Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif. As a result of police baton charge, few PML-N workers also got injured while some of them were taken into the custody by the police.

Addressing the party workers, the PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb demanded immediate release of the party workers saying such tactics could not deter the supporters of the party. She alleged that female workers were also thrashed by the police. She said those coming into power through fake mandate actually feared the PML-N leadership.

The venue, where the PML-N workers had gathered outside the Punjab Civil Secretariat, was blocked with containers while heavy contingent of police was deployed along with water cannons and Rangers officials to avoid any untoward incident. This also led to severe mess on the Lower Mall and adjoining roads for quite some time.

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