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January 19, 2021

Broadsheet scandal gets graver

Top Story

January 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet Monday constituted a three-member committee to probe the Broadsheet LLC scandal, as the controversy surrounding the scandal has deepened, with the government ministers and the opposition PML-N locked in a fierce slanging match.

Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the federal cabinet meeting here. The committee will be led by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz and comprise Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry and Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari.

The committee has been directed to furnish its recommendations within 48 hours. The committee has been given the task to review Pakistan’s agreement with Broadsheet LCC for the period 2002-2018, sources informed Geo News.

"An investigation will be launched to find out who benefited from the deal," the sources said as they revealed the cabinet’s decisions. He, however, warned the PDM that the law would come into action if the 11-party alliance attempted to move against it.

Meanwhile, speaking about Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the prime minister said the opposition’s alliance would be allowed to hold their protest. Regarding the matter of religious parties holding sit-ins and protests, the cabinet decided to consult the Ulema.

"This is a sensitive issue. We will take Ulema into confidence over this matter," the prime minister added. Meanwhile, Adviser to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar Monday told the Senate that the government had to pay $29 million as liability to Broadsheet due to the deal made by the then General Pervez Musharraf regime with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif back in December 2000.

Responding to the opposition senators’ criticism and questions on the hot issue, the adviser explained that the then PPP government had made a payment of $1.5 million to a wrong firm in 2008 and all proceedings of arbitration were held during the last two governments of PPP and Pakistan Muslim league-Nawaz (PML-N).

Shahzad Akbar said the arbitrator in London had held the Government of Pakistan guilty for making a deal with Nawaz Sharif in December 2000, which allowed him to live in self-exile in Saudi Arabia. He also clarified, “Neither are we saying this nor any JIT (Joint Investigation Team) says it but (the judgment) of an arbitrator in London is saying this, which has been validated by a high court in London.”

He said the arbitrators said the Broadsheet had suffered the loss of its honest earning as a result of this deal. Moreover, he noted that the quantum decision had two parts in which the arbitrator had given the details of liability.

In the first part, it fixed $100 million (Rs16 billion) as 20 percent share of Broadsheet for recovering assets of Shaun Groups of worth $48,760, Lakhani Groups $25,000, Fouzi Kazmi $85,000 General (R) Zahid Ali Akbar $3,81000, Aftab Sherpao $210,000 and Ansari’s assets of $180,000, and $1,58,000.

The second part of liability award, he continued, out of total $21.5 million was fixed for $1.5 million for recovering Avenfield properties of Sharif family and that other $19 million liability was fixed for Sharif family’s other assets. Hence, the total liability was $21. 5 million and government had to pay the remaining amount out of total $29 million in the form of interest due to the pendency of the matter.

Shahzad Akbar contended, “We have to pay $20.5 million due to assets of Sharif family out of the total $21. 5 million liability. The incumbent PTI government made this payment in December 31, 2020 while $5,000 as interest had been fixed on daily basis and the firm could get attached Pakistan’s assets abroad.

He noted that the arbitrator said that it had conducted forensic of the JIT report and the Sharif family’s ill-gotten money had been estimated at $820 million. The arbitrator did not fix the liability on the basis of this worth otherwise Broadsheet was demanding $160 million as its 20 percent share on the basis of this amount and this was the fact of Broadsheet case.

“Our guilt is that we are bearing the brunt of their misdeeds,” he remarked while responding to the opposition’s question about the release of payment.

Sharing the time line of the case, he said the then Musharraf regime had engaged two firms, Broadsheet and International Asset Recovery (IAR), in May 2000 to find out assets of 200 Pakistanis.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif left the country to live in Saudi Arabia in December 2000 as a result of the deal. In 2003, the NAB suspended the agreement with Broadsheet and IAR.

While in 2007, both the companies issued notice to the government for arbitration and in 2008, the government made a payment of $2.5 million to IAR as settlement. The second settlement agreement was signed with Broadsheet in 2008 when PPP’s Gilani was PM.

In 2009, the government got a new notice for payment saying otherwise be ready for arbitration and it became clear that a wrong firm was made a payment of $1.5 million.

Shahzad Akbar said from 2009, the proceedings of arbitration were started during the PPP regime and eventually hearing to fix liability award was scheduled in January 2016 when the opposition party PML-N was in power. In August 2016, the award was decided and it was not made public on the request of then government of PML-N.

He said the amount of liability was to be decided and these proceedings were between 2016 and 2018 during PML-N government. Before general election in 2018, the liability was decided and an appeal against the order was filed by the then caretaker government and it appeal was decided in the end of 2018. And, all three orders about Broadsheet case including high court order, liability award of Sir Anthony Evans, and quantum proceedings had also been made public after the consent of government.

Shahzad Akbar quipped, “What can be more fun than this that the case was against Sharif’s assets and the case was being fought by the then Government of Pakistan headed by Nawaz Sharif being the price of NRO and deals and now they sought deal from us by offering 34 amendments to the NAB law”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Monday endorsed a PML-N senior legislator’s proposal that a Committee of Whole of the Senate be constituted to discuss the Broadsheet issue in detail.

“I respect the thoughts Senator Javed Abbasi and fully agree with his suggestion to form a committee of the Whole of the Senate to discuss the issue of Broadsheet in detail, so that the nation could know the truth who was actually behind it,” he said while speaking in the Senate.

Earlier making the suggestion, Senator Javed Abbasi said it would be a test case for the Senate. Abbasi requested the Senate chairman to constitute the committee.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry Monday said broadsheet case was a new sensation that had exposed Nawaz Sharif family’s 76 properties worth 800 million dollar.

“The 76 properties of Nawaz Sharif’s family have been valued at 800 million dollars according to the broadsheet facts and this is what London court is also saying”, the federal minister stated this in a tweet. And they (Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz) ask to leave the matter of Nawaz Sharif’s properties and move forward. How can we move forward leaving this issue, he questioned?

Responding to Prime Minister's Advisor on Accountability Shahzad Akbar’s press conference, PML-N Secretary lnformation Marriyum Aurangzeb Monday said the nation was paying Rs10.4 billion price of a dictator’s wish to conspire against an elected prime minister, to justify his martial law and to build a false narrative of corruption.

She said the people of Pakistan were suffering the consequences of a dictator who violated the Constitution and imposed corruption and deals of the selected gang on Pakistan. The truth, she said, was that there was zero recovery from PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif.

Marriyum questioned, "It’s been 20 years why were $65 million given upfront but to this day zero looted money has been recovered. Why did Pervez Musharraf use Broadsheet Company to craft a false narrative of corruption and to justify his martial law? Imran Khan, Shahzad Akbar and their gang members were caught red-handed asking for commission from Broadsheet. Why did they ask for cut and commission, under what contract were these meetings with Broadsheet held and who participated in this meetings. Why were billions paid to a company that recovered nothing? He paid Rs6 billion to a company that had a total experience of six months and this drama was used to hide billions in laundered money. They looted Pakistan's Rs10.4 billion, Rs6 billion upfront and Rs4.4 billion later. The cost of violating the constitution is being paid by the nation in the form of inflation, unemployment, corruption and fines".