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LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: It seems the government agencies and departments have hastened punitive actions and accountability process against the opposition leaders, as at least one high-profile arrest, of Rana Sanaullah, took place on Monday, former president Asif Ali Zardari was arrested in another scam, and former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was indicted in rental power plants (RPPs) scam on the same day.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Punjab President Rana Sanaullah Khan, MNA, was arrested by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) Lahore team when he was travelling from Faisalabad to Lahore. The ANF sources confirmed that the lawmaker was arrested from Islamabad-Lahore Motorway near Sukheki area of Hafizabad district.
The ANF did not officially specify the charges on which Rana Sana was picked up. A spokesman for the ANF said the quantity and type of drugs recovered were still being assessed. Sources said Force Commander Brig Khalid Mehmood is overseeing the process. The accused has been lodged at ANF police station, he added.
Meanwhile, Lahore police have chalked out a comprehensive security plan for producing Rana Sanaullah in the district courts on Tuesday (today). At least 400 policemen of the ANF and Lahore police would be deployed, SP Faisal Shahzad said. Water cannon would also be deployed. The SP said officials of sensitive agencies in civvies would also be present. A traffic plan has also been finalised for the area where the accused would be produced before a court of law.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Saffron and Anti-Narcotics Shehryar Afridi said PML-N Punjab President RanaSanaullah had to prove himself innocent before a court of law. In a statement, he said the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), which arrested the PML-N leader this evening, is a responsible force.
“The ANF will present its case against Rana Sanaullah on the basis of evidence,” said the minister. He said they were following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, according to which everyone is equal before the law and that no one is above the law. “Everyone has to account for his own actions. This is Naya Pakistan,” he said.
“Rana Sanaullah is my respected colleague, and if any allegations against him prove to be right, he will have to face the consequences as per the law. In case that the said accusations are not true, his respect as a parliamentarian and citizen of Pakistan stays intact.” On the other hand, a protest demonstration was held in Faisalabad on Monday against the arrest of Rana Sanaullah.
PARK LANE SCAM: The National Accountability Bureau Rawalpindi on Monday arrested former President Asif Ali Zardari in Park Lane Estate (Pvt) Ltd scam also.
He is already in NAB Rawalpindi custody in fake bank account case since June 10. According to NAB sources, Zardari had been arrested for purchasing 2,460-kanal land in Islamabad through the Park Lane Company for only Rs620 million while actual price of the land was Rs2 billion. He may be presented before an accountability court soon for seeking his physical remand.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is also a suspect in the Park Lane case and had twice been questioned by the Combined Investigation Team of NAB Rawalpindi.
In the meanwhile, Senator Mustafa Khokhar, a spokesman said PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had nothing to with affairs of the Park Lane Estate (Pvt) Company Ltd. “If NAB wanted to arrest him, it can do as Bilawal will not get pre-arrest bail from any court of law,” he said adding that the PPP was never afraid of threats by NAB.
On the other hand, an accountability court Monday indicted former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other accused in the rental power plants (RPPs) scam. During the hearing by a bench, headed by Justice Arshad Malik, the PPP leader denied all charges, after which the court summoned witnesses on August 7 to record their statements.
The court had decided to frame charges against him in three RPPs cases including Reshma Power Generation (Pvt) Ltd, Gulf Rental Power (Pvt) Ltd and Young Gen Power Ltd. The RPPs case was about private power companies that faced allegations of receiving more than Rs22 billion mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects, but failed to set up the plants.
A few of them had set up the plants, but only after a long delay. The ex-PM is accused of misusing his authority during his tenure as power minister for approval of increasing down payment to the rental power companies from 7 to 14 per cent, amounting to about Rs22 billion.
PML-N REACTION: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) central leaders castigated the PTI government for, what they call, the worst form of victimisation of political leaders, saying the arrest of Rana Sanaullah had virtually revived the black days of dictatorship.
Shahbaz Sharif called the arrest by Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) ‘political vengeance’. In a statement, he alleged that the state institutions were being used against political opponents on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“His arrest without any charge reeks of political vendetta,” said Shahbaz, accusing the PTI of setting a shameful example of using state institutions against political rivals. To use institutions for arm-twisting of opponents is deplorable, he added. He demanded the authorities concerned to immediately present Rana Sanaullah before a relevant court and they be informed about charges on the basis of which he was taken into custody by the ANF.
The PML-N source said Shahbaz Sharif has called a meeting of party's senior leaders in Model Town, Lahore on Tuesday (today) to discuss future course of action following the arrest of Rana Sanaullah.
PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz Sharif squarely blamed Prime Minister Imran Khan for the arrest. “The Jaali-e-Azam being the small and petty minded man that he is, is directly behind his arrest”, she retorted and wondering what Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) got to do with Rana Sanaullah.
In a post at micro-blogging site, Maryam observed that it could not get more absurd to level such allegation against him. He has been arrested for his bold and courageous stance, she maintained.
Earlier, in another post, she asked the ruling party to forget PML-N and focus on the plight of ordinary people, who are badly hit by the anti-masses steps of the PTI government. “Don’t bother about Sharif family, their steadfast loyalty at this time of victimisation has made party fully united,” she claimed.
Raja Zafarul Haq, senior PML-N leader termed arrest of Rana Sanaullah a cheap tactic of the PTI. “We have seen fake cases against opposition on one pretext or the other. The allegation of cattle theft now has been replaced with mean offence of narcotics smuggling, which is a disgusting development,” Haq observed.
Former PML-N spokesman and Senator Mushahidullah Khan said it was a dirty, cheap tactic used by the government when they become weak enough to tackle opposition with arguments. He recalled the case of buffalo theft against Chaudhry Manzoor Elahi, father of speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, made during the PNA Movement in 1977.
Pervaiz Malik, MNA and senior PML-N leader said Rana Sanaullah always stood with the principled stand on every political issue. With a distinct political background, Sanaullah always worked for the supremacy of democracy, he said and adding it is highly unfortunate that such a leader had to face mysterious circumstances that led to his arrest.
Chaudhry Saud Majeed, senior PML-N leader termed the arrest of Rana Sanaullah the worst form of victimisation, being meted out to political opponents. He said unprecedented highhandedness and use of force against opposition leaders on one pretext or other are not less than the tactics adopted by Pervez Musharraf during his dictatorship.
President of Markazi Jamaat Ahle Hadith (MJAH) Senator Sajid Mir, who is in the Senate on PML-N seat, strongly condemned the arrest and termed it an unsophisticated type of political victimisation by the PTI government.
PPP REACTION: Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday termed PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah's arrest a "desperate attempt at political victimisation". In a tweet, Bilawal said: "Arrest of President Punjab PML-N by Anti-Narcotics Force is obviously desperate attempt at political victimisation.
“Sanaullah had been a vociferous critic of the PPP in the past and is currently one of the most vocal critics of the regime. Arrests expose govt’s weakness and desperation."
Also, the PPP termed the PTI government a replica of General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf government and said it was repeating same mistakes which the dictator did in the last days of his government. “Former President Asif Ali Zardari was arrested to pressurise Benazir Bhutto and now the same thing was being repeated with arresting Asif Zardari to bring PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari under pressure,” said Secretary General PPP Central Punjab Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed while addressing a press conference here along with PPP’s Deputy Information Secretary Palwasha Khan and Media Coordinator Nazir Dhoki.
Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed said if they wanted to arrest Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari they can do but he will not go for the bail. Condemning the arrest of PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah Khan, he said Islamabad was being turned into the hub of narcotics but the Anti-Narcotics Force arrested Rana Sanaullah Khan from Lahore. “Whether a martial-law has been imposed in the country with the slogan: either join the PTI or go to jail,” he questioned. Chaudhry Manzoor said all the arrests were made with the consultation and on the directives of the prime minister.
PTI REACTION: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership has urged the PML-N to remember its past deeds when it used to treat state institutions as their slaves, but this time it couldn’t escape accountability.
“One thing is for sure, no one can escape accountability now. The state institutions are autonomous, no one can dictate them,” said Faisal Vawda, federal minister for water resources, while commenting on the arrest of Rana Sanaullah Khan.
Talking to The News, he said the same PML-N leadership always used state institutions as their personal properties as it had set precedents of receiving judgments from the courts of their own choice. He said if Rana Sanaullah Khan was innocent, he would receive justice from the court.
Provincial Minister for Information Syed Sumsam Ali Bukhari, in a statement, said Nawaz-League is reaping what it had sown in the past. The minister said more PML-N leaders would leave the party as disintegration of the opposition party was certain.
A spokesman for the provincial government regretted in a statement that the PML-N was giving the arrest a political colour. It said all departments as well as the judiciary were working independently and the government had no role in the arrest of the PML-N leader. The statement also condemned Maryam Nawaz twitter statement, calling it an attack on independence of the state institutions and departments.