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January 23, 2021

Broadsheet investigation: Opposition rejects Justice Azmat Saeed's selection

Top Story

January 23, 2021

Broadsheet investigation: Opposition rejects Justice Azmat Saeed's selection

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Friday rejected the formation of a government’s inquiry committee to probe the Broadsheet saga and appointment of Justice (R) Azmat Saeed as its head.

Talking to the media outside Parliament, PPP Secretary-General Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari said the committee was an eye wash to divert the people’s attention from real issues and get desired results. "An independent inquiry under Prime Minister Imran Khan is not possible. The investigation is only being conducted to divert the public attention from the issue while the purpose of appointing Justice (R) Azmat Saeed is to blame the opposition and former leaders for it,” he added.

Bokhari said Justice (R) Azmat Saeed had been the prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and also a member of the board of governors of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. He said the PPP had serious reservations about the government’s inquiry committee as it was a sensitive and important matter that needed a transparent inquiry.

Former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the government had adopted double standard on every matter. “There is a need of an independent and fair probe into the Broadsheet issue as the nation wants to know the facts," he added. To a question, he said the opposition was united in the shape of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). He said if cases of former president Asif Ali Zardari were transferred to Karachi from Islamabad, it would not affect the PDM. "The cases relate to Sindh, his lawyers are from Sindh but he is being tried in Islamabad, which is injustice. Has it ever happened that cases of Punjab are tried in Sindh,” he questioned.

Meanwhile, senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal has also rejected the probe panel, headed by Justice (R) Azmat Saeed to investigate the Broadsheet scandal.

In a statement, he pointed out that the former judge was part of the bench in the Panama Papers case which had disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. "He was later invited to join the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital's board of governors after his retirement by Prime Minister Imran Khan. In the Musharraf government, when the asset recovery agreement was signed with Broadsheet, Justice (R) Azmat had been part of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)," he pointed out. He alleged that Imran Khan had appointed Azmat Saeed to save his own skin and the NAB.

PML-N leader and Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting in National Assembly Chairman Mian Javed Latif has said that after the NAB chairman, Shahzad Akbar could also be called in the committee. Addressing a press conference, he said Justice (R) Azmat Saeed should voluntarily refuse to be part of the committee. He said Information Minister Shibli Faraz was also present at the standing committee meeting Thursday and agreed that the NAB chairman could be called but later he changed his statement. “I don't know under what pressure Shibli Faraz has given the second statement,” he added.

Javed Latif said that during the meeting Farrukh Habib went out and after returning he said he would give a dissenting note so the NAB chief should not be called. He said so far the NAB had not clarified its position officially over the payment of five to seven billion rupees to Broadsheet. “There must be something fishy and we want to get information from the NAB chairman. Broadsheet was set up three weeks before a contract was signed with it," he added. He said the PML-N would not allow the government to spend money of Pakistani people for political purposes. “We will not let the case go like this. Who is responsible for the loss of billions of rupees to the nation,” he questioned.

He said the standing committee would call the NAB chairman against Shibli Faraz's wish. He added that Azmat Saeed should not accept the post after PML-N reservations. He announced that the standing committee would also summon Shahzad Akbar. “We talk about the NAB as an institution and will call the chairman in any case because he is responsible for all matters,” he concluded.

Former prime minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that "the sooner Pakistan decides to do away with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the better". He was addressing a press conference along with senior PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Khurram Dastgir Khan in the federal capital on Friday.

Referring to the Broadsheet LLC scandal and criticising the country's accountability watchdog for the "corruption therein" Abbasi said that the sooner the state decides to abolish the bureau, the better it would be for the country.

"Many other people are going to be exposed in the Broadsheet scandal," he said, adding that at present, Pakistan has the "most corrupt government in power".

"Those appointed to track down corruption turned out to be the most corrupt in the country themselves," he said. "Every job is being sold in the Punjab government today. How will corrupt people stop corruption?"

Speaking about the former Supreme Court judge Azmat Saeed who has been appointed to head the Broadsheet Inquiry, Abbasi said that he "requests Azmat Saeed not to head the inquiry because he himself was part of NAB."

"Don't be a part of the deal which puts the country's honour at stake," he said. Justice (R) Azmat Saeed was employed as the deputy prosecutor general of NAB in the year 2000 for a period of one year. He was appointed special prosecutor of NAB in 2001 to pursue cases before the accountability courts at Attock Fort and Rawalpindi.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi further said that the Broadsheet scandal is not about probing corruption worth a few million rupees but it is the "story of destroying politics in the country."

He also urged the PTI government to make the Broadsheet LLC inquiry transparent and share its findings with the public. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said that the Broadsheet LLC scandal and the government's probe over the latest revelations in the case will put the Opposition in a "tough spot", as he dismissed their objections to the government's choice of committee head.

He was addressing a press conference in Karachi after PML-N "rejected" a probe panel established by the government, which is to be headed by former Supreme Court Justice Azmat Saeed.

The interior minister asked the opposition that if they are against the appointment of Saeed, they would rather have Malik Qayyum in his place.

Qayyum was appointed as a Lahore High Court judge on Oct 24, 1988, but resigned after the Supreme Court in April 2001 described his conduct as “biased” while deciding an appeal of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto against her conviction in a corruption case.

According to a report, the PPP had "released the transcript of a phone conversation indicating (Qayyum's) collusion with the incumbent government" (PML-N) regarding a judgment in a case against Benazir.

The interior minister went on to say, "Azmat Saeed has read Panama JIT (Joint Investigation Team) report's volume 10." Warning PML-N, he said that their properties worth Rs85-100 million could be uncovered in the probe being conducted by the government.

Moreover, the interior minister claimed that PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, in 2000, had paid the National Accountability Bureau $7.5 million to get the watchdog off his back.

Earlier in the day, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, in a statement, pointed out that Saeed was part of the bench in the Panama Papers case which disqualified Nawaz Sharif.

He was later invited to join the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital's Board of Governors after his retirement by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Iqbal said.

The PML-N secretary-general also pointed out that during the Musharraf regime, when the asset recovery agreement was signed with Broadsheet, Justice Saeed had been part of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

According to the Supreme Court's website, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed was deputy prosecutor general NAB at Islamabad in the year 2000 for a period of one year and was later appointed special prosecutor NAB in 2001 to prosecute cases before Accountability Courts at Attock Fort and Rawalpindi.

However, it is not clear if the retired judge had played a role, if any, in the formulation and signing of the asset recovery agreement and/or its eventual termination.

"Imran Khan wants to save himself and NAB by appointing Justice Azmat as head of the investigation panel," Ahsan Iqbal said on the development. Meanwhile, Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said they are waiting that the PML-N to presents its details of party accounts.

“The PTI has submitted all the details of its party accounts with sources of fund and name of donors and why the other parties were not presenting their accounts detail,” he said while talking with the newsmen at the Parliament House on Friday.

Dr Babar Awan said the opposition wanted that the matter of foreign funding remain hanged in balance and media trial continue while the stance of the government and PTI has come before everyone after the statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan. “Now we are waiting for the details of the accounts of the PML-N,” he said.

He said the PTI has shown the confidence and trust on the Election Commission of Pakistan and scrutiny committee even in their tenure.

Dr Babar Awan demanded that the Election Commission of Pakistan should summon the heads of all the political parties in foreign funding case. “Nawaz sharif had also to come before the ECP being head of the party,” he said.

Federal Minister of Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain while talking about the Broadsheet LLC issue, criticised the opposition's response. "There is no government minister in the inquiry committee."

Taking a shot at PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz, the federal minister questioned where she gets the money to buy the expensive designer clothes she wears every time she steps out of her house. "We don't like to put people in jail," he said, adding that the "people's money should be returned."

He emphasized that the once tumultuous civil-military ties impeded the country's progress but things were now changing under the incumbent government led by the PTI.

Addressing a ceremony at the Barani Institute of Information Technology in Rawalpindi on Friday, Fawad said the government is building military tanks but hasn't been able to assemble vehicles. He added that as civil-military ties improve under the PTI regime, the government is looking to manufacture drones with the help of the armed forces.

Fawad said the foundation of the modern world was not laid by politicians or clerics, but by universities. "The basis of development is argument and logic, and learning from the past," the minister said.

The federal minister talked about using industrial bio-technology and agricultural technology, stressing that the country was far behind the world. "We cannot rely on selling radishes and carrots only; the agriculture sector has to be modernised."

"In a country of 220 million people, we are still not manufacturing anything. The point of privatisation is to promote industries," he said. "Pakistan will see changes in the next five years," he vowed.