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September 19, 2019

Noose tightened around opposition

Top Story

September 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Screw has been tightened further against the government as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Rawalpindi, on Wednesday arrested the PPP’s senior leader Khursheed Shah from near Banigala, while remand of the PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and opposition leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz have been extended.

According to NAB sources, former opposition leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah was arrested in a case pertaining to acquiring assets beyond means of income when he was present in Islamabad for the National Assembly session. Sources in the NAB said the arrest came after allegations were proven in the initial investigation against the PPP leader and that further inquiry would be carried out in the case. The PPP leader is accused of allotting to himself an amnesty plot illegally from a cooperative society in Sukkur.

The investigation has been ongoing since August 7 and it was alleged that the PPP leader built bungalow, petrol pump, and hotel in the name of others (benamidars). The NAB sources said Khursheed Shah would be shifted to Sukkur under transit remand. The NAB Sukkur had summoned Khursheed Shah through a letter; however, the PPP leader wrote back to the authority, declining to appear before it.

According to the NAB reasons of his arrest, being a public office-holder, Khursheed Shah got transferred an amenity plot at Professors’ Cooperative Housing Society, Sukkur, measuring approx. 2,930 sq yards meant for school in the name of his dependents i.e. his wives and his son to build up his palatial house.

“This huge structure has been built by using funds not commensurate with his known sources of income and the dependents did not have their own sources of income to finance such huge construction,” the NAB stated.

According to the NAB, in order to conceal his title, the accused managed to make transactions in the name of his benamidars and has later on built a palatial house. The amenity plot has been converted into four residential plots i.e. 176 (781.5 sq yards), 177 (692.7 sq yards), 178 (757.6 sq yards) and 179 (671.5 sq yards).

The NAB stated that the complainant has levelled other numerous serious allegations regarding accumulation of illegal assets by the accused and categorically mentioned benamidars with their details.

It has been alleged that the following valuable properties, inter alia, are held by the accused in the name of his benamidars that include New Taj Hotel, Shikarpur Road, Sukkur, worth Rs250 million in the name of Aijaz Baloch (frontman/benamidar), petrol pump worth millions at Rohri Road in the name of Qasim Shah (frontman/benamidar), a bungalow in the name of Pappu Mahar (frontman/benamidar) on government land and Gulf Hotel constructed in Rohri in the name of his benamidar.

According to NAB, the accused used his official influence for securing huge contracts for his partners and agents including M/s Umar Jan and Co and Nawab and Co whereas Khursheed Shah is the ultimate beneficiary.

The NAB alleged that the accused used these illegal funds to accumulate assets and record has been requisitioned regarding huge contracts worth billions of rupees that have been awarded to frontmen of the accused. Furthermore, the NAB investigation revealed that a number of businesses are being run in the name of benamidars.

The NAB said that keeping in view the influence of the accused, it is apprehended that the witness benamidars will not reveal true facts if the accused remains unarrested. “Further, absconding of accused is also apprehended. Therefore, his arrest warrants may be issued to proceed further in the matter,” the NAB stated.

Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, while talking to media persons, said that the PPP senior leader was not evading any investigation and the government made a wrong move by arresting Khursheed Shah.

He questioned had Syed Khursheed Shah run away from the country or had he refused to attend any inquiry. “This step of the government will harm the expression of unity that is currently required of the nation,” he said.

While condemning the arrest of Khursheed Shah, Parliamentary Leader of the PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman said Khursheed Shah was arrested at a time when the political parties were expressing solidarity with people of Kashmir. He said Khursheed Shah was arrested without the knowledge of the speaker National Assembly.

She said that on the one hand we say that the law of jungle is prevailing in Occupied Kashmir which is being subjected to state oppression; it appears that something similar is happening here. PPP leader Murtaza Wahab said several federal ministers are facing inquiries, but they haven’t been arrested. “Whoever criticises the government gets arrested,” said the PPP senator.

Our correspondent adds from Lahore: An accountability court extended by seven days the physical remand of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her cousin Yousaf Abbas, both accused in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills money laundering investigations. The NAB officials produced both the accused before the court amid tight security as heavy contingents of law-enforcement agencies had cordoned off the court premises for security purposes and to keep a large number of PML-N workers at bay.

As the hearing commenced, the NAB prosecutor shared a list of the board of directors of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills, informing that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his late wife Kulsoom Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz and others were members of the board of directors of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills. He informed the court that the mill was established in 1992 with an investment of Rs700 million out of which Rs400 million was obtained as loan from a bank. Moreover, the prosecutor claimed that the mill received a loan of 15 million dollars from offshore companies owned by the Nawaz family. He said both the accused were not answering questions about the said loan.

The prosecutor, while sharing progress in investigations, said the bureau has written to the State Bank of Pakistan for record in this regard. Different transactions of Rs900 million were made in the mill accounts by an unknown person. The prosecutor implored the court to grant 15-day extension in the physical remand of both the accused to carry out investigations.

On the other hand, the counsel of Maryam Nawaz argued that the Bureau has arrested his client on political grounds, arguing that in 1992, all properties were in Nawaz Sharif’s name and from 1992 to 1999, he transferred the properties in the children’s name. The counsel implored the court to not extend the remand of his client. However, the court after hearing arguments of both parties extended the physical remand of Maryam and Yousaf by September 25.

After the proceedings, Maryam while talking to media persons claimed that she was arrested for political reasons as she was holding rallies. “I haven’t been asked a single question in the last 42 days about corruption,” she said, and added how she can submit documents while she was under arrest. Moreover, the NAB is kept on asking her why her grandfather transferred his business to her. “I have told the investigators hundred times that a person would transfer his property to his own children, not his neighbours,” she said.

Interestingly, Yousaf Abbas also criticised the NAB, terming NAB officials as small-minded people. He said other prisoners are allowed to have home-cooked food, but they are not.

Meanwhile, the NAB Lahore issued a clarification stating that no political question has ever been asked from Maryam Nawaz during interrogations. The NAB said its investigation officers are highly professional and they ask questions related to the case. Therefore, it said, the impression of asking political questions from the accused is totally baseless and concocted. It said the media is requested to avoid speculations in this regard.

On Wednesday, the court also extended the judicial remand of Hamza Shahbaz in asset beyond means and money laundering investigations for 14 days. He will be produced before the court on October 2.

Meanwhile, the hearing into appeals of Nawaz Sharif and NAB in the Al-Azizia case has been adjourned for three weeks. The lawyer of Nawaz Sharif said he will complete arguments in three months.

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