ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday appeared before the investigation team of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Rawalpindi probing fake bank accounts scam and recorded his statement with regard to Joint Venture Opel-225 case.
The NAB’s investigation team handed over questionnaire comprising 30 questions to Bilawal Bhutto and asked him to reply these within two weeks.
According to sources, the NAB investigation team questioned him about the documents, which were submitted in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) according in which he was mentioned as a 25 percent shareholder of JV Venture Opel-25 from year 2011 to 2017 and his signature was also on these documents.
Sources said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari informed that he did not know about the matters relating to the business. The NAB accused him of transferring over Rs1 billion from the accounts of JV Opel-225.
During the appearance before the NAB, senior leaders of the PPP including former prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, PPP’s Parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman, PPP Secretary General Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari and Central Punjab PPP President Qamar Zaman Kaira were also present outside the NAB offices to express their solidarity with their party chairman.
Strict security arrangements were made by deploying the contingents of police for the appearance of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari before the NAB. Talking to media after his appearance before NAB, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said despite all the pressure from the government, the PPP will not give up its struggle against the “PTI-IMF budget” and if he is arrested, his voice will be Aseefa Bhutto Zardari.
“I would like to tell Imran Khan that beware of the march, we do not accept your PTI-IMF budget, the people of this country do not accept this PTI-IMF budget, we will tear up this budget,” he said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said this government murdered all the poor people, labourers, growers, small shopkeepers and small traders economically and then Prime minister Imran Khan said that contentment is in grave. “We cannot tolerate your tyranny and this economic murder for even a day. Not a single worker of the party is ready to step back from this struggle despite all your pressures and threats,” he said.
He said one year ago, the chief Justice of Pakistan himself declared him innocent. “Despite that I have presented myself before these authorities three times, I have answered their questionnaires,” he said.
He said the last questionnaire was on the last summon which was in May 2019 and since then they had no objections, no contradiction, no issue. “What suddenly happened on December 20 when they sent this notice and then suddenly what happened that I was not summoned,” he said.
He said when he announced in Karachi that they would start struggle against PTI-IMF deal then just after that a notice was sent. “We respect the rule of law, respect institutions. So I presented myself despite my reservations,” he said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his reservation is not only that Chief Justice of Pakistan has said that he was innocent but also had observed that naming him and Murad Ali Shah was wrong and this have to be re-examined but unfortunately that has not been done. “Today I am being summoned because of the accusation and they know that neither have I actively participated in any business activity nor was I involved in any day-to-day affair,” he said adding that I was involved in any private transaction between company Z and company B and it is a private transactions in which there is no government land or government money involved and therefore, NAB should not have any concern. He said there is no concern of NAB in private transactions as at that time he was not even public officeholder so why NAB summoned him and asked him questions. “When I have answered your questions before and presented myself before you and when my stance is the same whether yesterday or today and will remain the same that I am innocent and the Chief Justice has declared me innocent,” he said.
He said his actions also tells that he was innocent and with this political victimisation, with this character assassination, they want to defame democratic forces and politicians and they have been observing this for long time now. “We were wrong to think that NAB will not initiate a case against one year old toddler and seven years old child because I was seven years old when I became a shareholder of this company and they will initiate a case against seven years old child,” he said and adding that they did not think when Chief Justice of Supreme Court said over one year before the entire country even then they were being harassed and victimised.
Asked whether PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif should return soon and struggle with PPP, Bilawal said he thinks that the post of the leader of the opposition is as much important in the National Assembly as the post of Leader of the House. “And we say with sadness whether the issues of economy, issues of national interests, Kashmir, terrorism or day to day activities of our government neither the leader of the house nor the leader of opposition is present in the National Assembly, which affects Pakistani politics and democracy,” he said.
PPP chairman said he hopes that soon opposition leader will be in the country and play his role. In reply to another question, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said struggle will start in March and whatever shape it takes whether march, movement, conventions, seminar or else.
Speaking outside the NAB offices, Qamar Zaman Kaira said they had been pointing out the NAB-Niazi nexus and now the court were also saying it. “The courts were saying that the NAB comes up ill-prepared before the courts,” he said. Qamar Zaman Kaira said the country was in grip of the economic crisis and allies of the government were leaving it and now the government had to go.
He asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to rein in its “Gali Galoch Brigade” (Abusing Brigade) as the government only wanted to divert the attention of the people from national issues through such acts. Kaira said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has already replied to the questions, which were being asked from him now. “He (Bilawal) was not bound to give a reply of anyone wishes,” he said.
Senator Sherry Rehman said that NAB could not make Bilawal Bhutto Zardari party in case when he was not a public officeholder.
Later talking to the newsmen outside Parliament house, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the spokesperson for Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said whenever PPP chairman announces movement against government, the NAB sends a notice to him.
Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that these notices will not be able to stop PPP from launching a movement against the government. “The NAB chairman should clarify why the federal ministers are representing the NAB instead of NAB’s spokesman,” he said. He said that Bilawal has never held a public office. NAB should summon the people who created flour and sugar crises and the people who embezzled public money in BRT project, Malam Jabba and other projects in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. “Now even international institutions are reporting that there is political victimisation in Pakistan,” he said. Senator Khokhar said that government does not have anything to show its performance.
He said the response of PPP Chairman Bilawal’s talk with media today by Firdous Ashiq Awan and Shahzad Akbar has no relevance with facts. “Why these ministers have come out in support of NAB,” he asked. Senator Mustafa Nawaz Kokhar said former Chief Justice of Pakistan is on the record to have said that NAB is no more impartial. “PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is innocent and the Chief Justice had said so but the government ministers are misguiding people,” he said
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said Thursday that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had called Bilawal Bhutto Zardari innocent but not guiltless and the NAB had summoned him for probe in alleged corruption cases.
Talking to media persons outside the Parliament House here, earlier there was a person, who would say, “why was I disqualified” and now Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asks, why is he summoned…let me tell him he is summoned for investigations in relation to alleged money laundering and corruption vis-à-vis JV Opal and Opal-225.
He wondered from nowhere Bilawal was given a certificate that he was untouchable and he said that the chief justice had called him innocent, yes he was called innocent, which Sh. Rashid also often calls him but he was not called ‘guiltless’ by the apex court.
Shahzad Akbar emphasised that none was above the law and anyone facing charges, would have to appear before the related agencies like any other ordinary citizen. He claimed that previously, when Bilawal was summoned by the NAB, he had said that he was abroad and had not attended the board of directors meeting. But all this was verified, it was found out that he was not only present in the country but also the board of directors’ meeting documents carried his signatures.
Bilawal, he alleged, misled by saying that he had nothing to do with money laundering, as he was just seven years old and reminded him that the properties were purchased during 2011-14 when his father Asif Zardari was the president of Pakistan and he was an adult at that time.
He contended Bilawal told a white lie and when an ordinary person, would do so, he would be behind bars while PPP leader was lying before the NAB.
Shahzad Akbar said one charge against Bilawal was that money laundering was carried out, involving the Zardari Groups of Companies accounts and there was an allegation of money laundering against him. He continued, with this money, agriculture land was purchased in Tando Allahyar Khan and five plots were bought in Clifton-II and made part of Bilawal House; in Lahore, Zardari House was constructed and more land was also purchased.
Like Bilawal, the special assistant said he would not tell a lie and say that so far, there were allegations against Bilawal, which were yet to be proved but he should present himself before the investigation agencies and provide all the required information and if they cleared him, then he would be free, saying no one was above the law and one had to appear for investigations in the face of allegations. He explained that when the investigators called an accused, keeping in view the record, his version had to be obtained, which becomes part of record and if anything wrong was found, then a court had to be moved after furnishing a reference. Shahzad Akbar reminded Bilawal that his father Asif Zardari and auntie were also directors of the Zardari Group of Companies and were facing investigation, also with reference to fake accounts.
Replying to questions, he said that who had said that money laundering could not be carried out with loans. He added that NAB had said that it could not just entirely rely on JIT investigations and would go for fresh evidences and obtain versions from all the concerned.
He explained that after the JIT report, the Supreme Court had said that now prima facie, the case merited NAB investigation and the anti-graft was now doing exactly that. Referring to what he called white lie, told by Bilawal, he said NAB appeared to be giving ‘relaxation’ to him.
About the much-discussed and reported Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), he explained that three institutions were investigating BRT and an inter-ministerial committee was also formed. Peshawar High Court passed an order while FIA submitted its first report and then in view of an appeal, a stay was granted. He continued NAB was also probing the matter and a stay was also granted in relation to it. Shahzad Akbar pointed out that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had submitted a reply and contended in an appeal that it did not at all want halt to investigation by FIA or any other agency but certain things mentioned in PHC order should be legally interpreted, which were in deviation from the law and let the other inquiry continue.
However, when the apex court went through that judgement, it stopped investigation and fixed a date and sought reply.
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