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July 19, 2019

Another former PM arrested

Top Story

July 19, 2019

LAHORE: After the arrest of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has now arrested another ex-PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in an investigation related to awarding an alleged illegal contract of LNG which caused a Rs1.5 billion loss to the national exchequer.

The NAB Chairman, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, also signed the arrest warrants for another PML-N leader Miftah Ismail, as well as former managing director of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) Sheikh Imranul Haque on Thursday.

A NAB Lahore team intercepted Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at Thokar Niaz Baig Motorway Interchange when he was on his way to attend a presser of the PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore. At the time of arrest, Abbasi was accompanied by PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal and spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb.

As per a video captured by Marriyam Aurangzeb, Abbasi resisted his arrest, saying that at the moment he was a free citizen and asked the security official to bring his arrest warrant. He said he would surrender after seeing his arrest warrant. After a while, the NAB officials showed a photocopy of the arrest warrant and took him into custody.

Abbasi’s arrest warrant read that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, son of Khaqan Abbasi, is accused of corrupt practices under Section 9(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999. The NAB chairman directed the former PM’s arrest under Section 18(e) and Section 24(a) of the NAO 1999. The arrest warrant further read that Abbasi after his arrest shall be produced before the court for authorisation of detention for such period as may be necessary for finalisation of the investigation.

After the arrest, Abbasi was shifted to the NAB Lahore Office where his brief medical check-up took place and he offered his prayers. Meanwhile, a team of the NAB Rawalpindi reached the NAB Lahore Office. The NAB Rawalpindi team took the custody of the accused and escorted him to the NAB Rawalpindi office.

It is pertinent to mention here that Abbasi’s arrest warrant was signed on July 16 while he was due before the NAB on July 18. The NAB sources told this correspondent that Abbasi was handed over a questioner. However, he didn’t answer most of the questions and was not cooperating with the NAB. After seeing the situation, his arrest was decided. Commenting on the photo copy of the arrest warrant, the sources said that in a digital world, showing of original arrest warrant do not matter. Moreover, the copy of the arrest warrant was attested by the NAB Lahore. The sources said the transit remand of Abbasi was not required, so he has been shifted to Rawalpindi without obtaining it.

The NAB Islamabad spokesperson Nawazish Ali, while talking to The News, said the Bureau could not share grounds of the arrest of Abbasi at the moment as it would be submitted before the court where he would be presented for his physical remand today (Friday). Nawazish said he could not share any details of the case, adding that it is a famous LNG case and the whole world knows it.

As per the LNG case, the NAB has accused Abbasi of handing over a tender worth Rs220 billion to a company in which he himself was a shareholder during his tenure as federal petroleum minister. In early 2019, the NAB’s Executive Board had authorised two investigations against Abbasi. First investigation was about his alleged involvement in irregularities in an LNG import tender and the other was related to the appointment of Naeemuddin Khan as president of the Bank of Punjab.

Former finance minister Miftah Ismail is also being probed in connection with the LNG import case. After Abbasi's arrest, teams in Karachi and Islamabad were dispatched to take the former finance minister into custody. By evening, a NAB team had secured warrant to enter Miftah Ismail's house in Karachi for a search and arrest operation. However, it eventually returned empty-handed as he was not at home and his phone was also switched off.

Both leaders were earlier placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) to restrict their movement abroad.

In a post shared on Twitter, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif -- also facing cases by NAB -- condemned Abbasi's arrest.

"We strongly protest Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's arrest. The institution of NAB has become Imran Khan's puppet. Our spirits cannot be wavered by such cheap tactics," he said. While speaking to the media, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal strongly protested the arrest and any other arrests "made to silence those who question the government".

The PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also took to Twitter to condemn the arrest. He said that "the selected accountability and selected arrests only expose the selected government". "Arrests of the opposition, censorship of the media and selected govt, nothing ‘Naya’ about this Pakistan. It’s the same old Zia/Musharraf type dictatorial Pakistan. Such tactics will not deter the resistance," he wrote.

"I have a question: does no civilian in this country have the right to serve this country? If we do, we will be prosecuted," he added. The JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said there was no legal or ethical basis for the arrest of the opposition leaders. He said the National Assembly must be dissolved and new elections must be held. He vowed to hold massive protest against the government on July 25.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah strongly dispelled an impression being created about political victimisation in the country. Talking to media persons at Sindh Governor House, he said cases of corruption being undertaken by the NAB were based on proper investigations followed by due legal procedures.

"To be honest culprits and their crimes are far more in numbers as compared to NAB personnel engaged in investigation and related proceedings thus leading to delay in early culmination of these cases," he said in reply to a question.

The minister praised Imran Khan for his absolute commitment against corruption. "He also respects judiciary and courts of law which is well evident through his presence before the Supreme Court as the serving PM of the country," he said. Ijaz Shah said the government and the military are on the same page, adding that everyone is accountable for his deeds.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said confiscation of properties illegally owned by Sharif family was materialisation of the dream of recovery of looted wealth.

In a tweet, the special assistant said it is happening for the first time in the history of Pakistan that the plundered wealth was being retrieved, which was not less than a miracle. She said that Prime Minister Imran Khan by ensuring rule of law was fulfilling the promise made with the nation to return looted national wealth. The special assistant said that the corrupt elements who looted the national wealth were worried for their ill-gotten wealth.

AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in a statement that Shahbaz Sharif has failed to save his son Hamza Shahbaz. He said he sees more arrests in coming days and those who are making more hue and cry are likely to be arrested first.