ISLAMABAD/LAHORE/SIALKOT: The government on Sunday said it had recovered billions of rupees worth of “illegally occupied state land” from 36 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) politicians — prompting a rebuke from the opposition party’s leaders — as authorities demolished a four-storey building belonging to Khawaja Asif’s son.
In a news conference in Islamabad, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the government has recovered billions of rupees worth of state land with an area totalling 8,085 acres from 36 politicians — “all of whom belong to the PML-N”.
According to state media, Akbar said these recoveries have been made in just two-and-a-half years in Punjab alone, and the retrieved lands “are now being utilised for public welfare”. Shahzad Akbar said: “1,150 kanals of land worth over 4.57 million rupees was recovered from PML-N leader Muhammad Afzal Khokhar and brothers.”
He also said millions of rupees in terms of “penal rent” have also been recovered from “the land grabbers”. He added: PML-N leaders “Mudasar Qayum Nahra, Khurram Dastgir Khan, Daniyal Aziz, Javed Latif, Mir Badshah Qaisrani, Abid Sher Ali are amongst those from whom illegally occupied state land has been recovered”.
The move comes a week after authorities demolished the residence of PML-N lawmakers Saiful Malook and Mir Afzal Khokhar, in an operation said to recover state land from “land grabbers”. The PML-N says the move was done at Prime Minister Imran Khan’s behest to “pressurise” party supporters over their loyalties to Nawaz Sharif, and in spite of court stay orders.
“Unfortunately, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif laid the foundations of the politics of corruption,” Akbar said. “The government is determined to continue anti-corruption drive with more vigour [...] there is no room for such politics in Pakistan now.”
Sharing the current status of the anti-corruption drive in Punjab, he said the authorities went after “a lot of bigwigs for their corrupt activities” so that justice could be dispensed.
The adviser said the sole purpose of the anti-corruption drive is to retrieve the “looted” money and spending it for the welfare of the people of Pakistan. He said the government will continue this drive with full vigour. The press conference coincided with the demolition of a four-storey building in a private housing society compound belonging to former foreign minister Khawaja Asif’s son, Khawaja Asad, and former Sialkot mayor Tauheed Akhtar, Geo News reported.
District Council staff arrived at the society on Sunday morning with dozens of vehicles and hundreds of personnel and demolished the building with power tools, video shared on social media showed.
Former mayor Tauheed Akhtar said the operation was “political revenge” and lamented that such a large scale operation was carried out without prior notice.
In a press conference later, PML-N leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique, Ayaz Sadiq and Ata Tarar criticised the government and termed the demolitions “political intimidation” ahead of by-elections.
Rafique said the residence of the Khokhar brothers was demolished, and vowed taking legal action against the police officers that enabled the move. “The government is trying to sell what no one buys,” said Rafique.
He said: “There are only a few days left in the by-elections. Our comrades are being intimidated. The office of an approved scheme was demolished in Sialkot.”
He also said whoever commits “injustice” will reach his end. He also said the rulers want opponents to be eliminated, “but the PDM and we (PML-N) will not be eliminated”. “This era [of oppression] cannot last long.
Ayaz Sadiq criticised the government’s record on corruption, citing Transparency International’s latest report in which Pakistan slid four spots in its graft perception index. “This is the same Transparency International that Niazi used to give examples of,” Sadiq said. When Tarar spoke, he alleged Shahzad Akbar of “abusing his position”.
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