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January 19, 2021

Confusions and contradictions within the govt on Broadsheet scam

Top Story

January 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Broadsheet case has caused not only heavy financial loss to public kitty, sprung fresh allegations of kickbacks besides bringing a huge embarrassment for Pakistan, yet there is no clue what the government is doing whether to inquire the matter, fix the responsibilities or ascertain the facts of the case. From the government side, what the official documents of different authorities read and what its spokespersons and minister claim further the confusion and expose contradictions within the regime on this important matter.

Last Tuesday after the cabinet meeting, Minister for Information Shibli Faraz had said that an inter-ministerial committee had been formed to probe the Broadsheet scandal.

"Different interviews have come forth and after the London High Court's decision, an inter-ministerial committee has been formed to further dissect the matter," Faraz was quoted as saying, adding that the committee would not only minutely probe the fine points of the case, but also determine how the country's wealth was looted, and how the firm, after it had made important discoveries, was approached by someone said to be Nawaz Sharif's cousin to have the family's name removed from the matter after which the CEO said, "We don't deal with crooks."

Neither the minister shared the details of the inter-ministerial committee constituted nor has any notification to this respect been issued as yet by the government. Informed sources told The News and a few cabinet members, who were approached, confirmed on Sunday that the issue was neither part of the formal agenda of the last cabinet meeting nor it was discussed there.

According to one of the ministers, the issue was discussed in a meeting of government/PTI spokesmen, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan. In the said meeting, the purpose of the discussion was to chalk out points that need to be propagated through the media about what the Broadsheet owner had alleged about Nawaz Sharif.

“Broadsheet case was not part of the cabinet agenda,” an official source said, adding that neither in the formal cabinet meeting the issue was raised nor was discussed and consequently reflected in the minutes of the cabinet meeting. The source said that may be after the formal meeting was finished, the matter would have been discussed. Two cabinet members, who were contacted, said that the matter was not discussed in the cabinet meeting.

The Broadsheet owner Moussavi in his different interviews initially spoke against Nawaz Sharif, his alleged one billion dollar in a Singaporean Bank and an effort by one of his relatives to bribe Broadsheet. Later, Moussavi not only attacked NAB but also certain officials of the PTI government and even alleged that a senior government official in 2019 had sought “cuts” from the (to be) recovered money of alleged $1 billion belonging to Nawaz Sharif if Broadsheet was engaged. Moussavi claimed that then he refused to deal with the government whereas Barrister Shahzad Akbar, who had also met the Broadsheet head, said that Broadsheet proposal was not suited to the government.

Sources said what Moussavi alleged against Nawaz Sharif or the PTI government and its “senior official”, the matter needs to be probed but no such inquiry is ordered by the government as yet. Questions about NAB’s role and its original contract with Broadsheet and its cancellation also require a probe but here too nothing seems to be moving.

Foreign Ministry’s document dated Jan 8, 2021 as reported by The News on Sunday shows the FO planning to get into an expensive legal fight with United Bank Limited’s UK branch for debiting nearly $29 million to the accounts of the Broadsheet without the authorisation of the government of Pakistan. The ministry said that it was not in the loop while multi-million dollar cases were being fought in the UK.

NAB spokesperson was quoted in the same story as saying that the Broadsheet issue had nothing to do with the Bureau's current administration and chairman. He added that the incumbent NAB chairman after assuming office had placed the Broadsheet related subject with the federal government, which formed a committee that would decide dues and payments if applicable.

Interestingly ECC’s documents shared on the social media shows that on October 26, weeks before the London High Court decision in Broadsheet case, the NAB had requested ECC to accord approval for allocation of Technical Supplementary Grant of Rs433.091 million for part final payment to Broadsheet. The ECC on November 4 considered the NAB’s summary and approved the proposal.

When approached Information Minister Shibli Faraz confirmed that it was PM’s decision to set up inter-ministerial committee to probe the Broadsheet scam. He added that the committee would be notified anytime. Shibli disclosed that he would be heading the committee, whose members would be Fawad Chaudhry and Dr Shireen Mazari. He assured that the committee would probe all aspects of the Broadsheet scam to expose those who had any role in this loss to the public kitty.