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ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry Sunday said the fight against the rotten system was still on and it was the fight of the entire nation, including the state institutions.
Addressing a news conference here along with the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Accountability Shehzad Akbar, he said all options were available to the government with regard to the bail granted to Shehbaz Sharif.
He said Shehbaz Sharif could not go abroad as he was guarantor of absconder Nawaz Sharif. The minister said the time had come to decide if it was the fight of Imran Khan only or the entire nation.
He emphasised that the justice and prosecution systems had to play their role in purging the society of corruption. Fawad acknowledged the fact that the powers of government in a democratic setup were not unlimited and it had to take measures within the ambit of the law and the Constitution.
The minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had come to power, but the system had not changed and its fight against the rotten system was still going on.
Giving background of the alleged corruption of the past governments of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), Fawad noted that from 1985 to 1999 and 2008 to 2018, two families ruled the country and Sharif brothers were one of them, who bought properties abroad by plundering the national wealth.
However, he made it clear that Prime Minister Imran Khan had no personal enmity towards the Sharif family.
“His fight is against the corrupt system and he wants return of the plundered national wealth,” he said. Fawad said it was not the PTI but a German newspaper that published the news of corrupt rulers, which was also known as Panama leaks.
Fawad said the common factor in the Panama leaks was that the rulers of poor counties misused national resources and invested the looted wealth in purchase of properties in rich countries.
He explained that Nawaz Sharif owned four apartments in London and each apartment's worth was 45 million pounds. He said a child owned a house in London even before his birth in the Sharif family.
As a political party, he said, the PTI played its role. The people accepted that narrative and voted for Imran Khan in the 2018 general election, he added. The minister appreciated Chairman NAB Justice (R) Javed Iqbal for depositing over Rs400 billion looted money and noted that its performance had been very good.
Shehzad Akbar also praised the NAB and said there had been significant increase in its performance and independence ever since Javed Iqbal assumed the charge as its head. Similarly, the minister said the superior judiciary had given historic verdicts in corruption cases, but still there were many issues, which needed to be settled, as so far the system had not changed.
Fawad said Shehbaz was granted bail in a hasty manner, which was a manifestation of the obsolete system in the country.
He said Dr Yasmin Rashid was also ill needing more medical attention than Shehbaz Sharif but despite that she was in the forefront of fight against the coronavirus. “If she could get medical treatment in Pakistan, why Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif cannot be treated here?” he asked.
The minister also asked if it was not the responsibility of the sons of Nawaz Sharif to get back and face charges of corruption and money laundering. He said if Shehbaz Sharif was given relief and allowed to go abroad for medical treatment, then it would amount to trampling the rights of thousands of prisoners languishing in various jails.
He said there was an impression that the powerful people were breaking the web, while the weaker people were trapped inside. “By such incidents, the common man would feel that the law was not the same for the powerful and the weak segments,” he continued.
He, however, insisted that the PTI fully respected the judiciary, but it would avail itself of all legal options against the verdict allowing Shehbaz Sharif to go abroad. He pointed out that even the opposition parties also considered Nawaz Sharif an absconder, as Asif Zardari had demanded return of Nawaz Sharif before the launch of any movement.
He said Shehbaz Sharif had previously gone to the UK on medical grounds, but he was running on roads in London showing that he had no serious health problem. The minister claimed Prime Minister Imran Khan was the only national leader, while those in the opposition were confined to regions.
“Whether it is Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi, Gilgit-Baltistan or Kashmir, Imran Khan is the only national leader and PTI is the only party to contest the general elections comprehensively, as the PMLN is a party of central Punjab, while the PPP is confined to interior Sindh,” he said.
He pointed out that the PMLN and PPP had won in the recent by-elections, as they had won from these constituencies already, whereas the PTI had won from NA-249 previously. “But in the general election, there are elections on 1100-1200 seats of the legislatures and the PTI is the only party to contest nationally,” he maintained.
To another question, Fawad said the establishment consisted of various departments of the federal government and that the federal government’s stance on Shehbaz Sharif was very clear ‘that we don’t want to let him go abroad till all the cases against him were taken to their logical conclusion.
He said the cases against Sharifs were not registered by the PTI and the government had no personal fight with them. “In fact, it is the fight of the masses against corruption, which the PTI government is waging. These cases will be taken to their logical conclusion Insha Allah, while Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz have already been convicted and the rest would also meet the same fate,” he added.
Shehzad Akbar said after the court order, the PMLN leaders had started misleading people that he [Shehzad Akbar] had no evidence against Shehbaz Sharif. “No, this is not true, that's why I have brought here 55 volumes of evidence, which contain documentary evidence of more than 100 witnesses. And these volumes of documentary evidence have entered the court with reference,” he noted.
He claimed that the court was also misled and not properly assisted, and they would try and were trying to mislead the public as if nothing could be proved against Shehbaz Sharif.
“The trial will go ahead after Eid. There were allegations of money laundering against Shehbaz Sharif, which were ignored and due to money laundering, Pakistan is on the gray list of FATF today,” he asserted.
He emphasised that the government was considering appealing against Shehbaz Sharif's bail decision. He advised the NAB to appeal the Lahore High Court decision. He pointed out that when they went abroad, the case of 14 accused will not be heard, whereas the PMLN leader Ata Tarar was PSO of Sharifs and now he was saying he was a lawyer.
Shehzad Akbar said a public office holder always faced the question of assets in excess of income and it could not be imposed on a journalist or the common man. He also shared the investigation report with friends and the people showing the alleged the black deeds of Shehbaz Sharif.
The advisor said it was the prerogative of the court to give bail to anyone or cancel it. “My legal point is this that if you will give conclusions on the merit of a bail case, then it will be prejudicial for both sides, which is not allowed in the law,” he contended.
To a question, he said the NAB legal team worked within its resources and assisted the court as much as possible. He noted that when the bail matter of Hamza came up, the apex court said their heads hang in shame when they go by the merit of the case, as to what types of allegations he faced.
He said the NAB legal team would pursue the matter of bail order to the best of its ability. Meanwhile, PMLN leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Shehbaz Sharif will definitely go abroad, as no evidence of TTs or money laundering could be presented against him in the courts.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, he said the NAB itself admitted that Shehbaz Sharif had not committed any corruption. He maintained that mere accusations did not work as it was neccessery
“Then how can you accuse him of money laundering and anonymity? Today, there are people in the government who do not have the strength to speak the truth. This is the biggest tragedy of the country,” he said.
"I have been watching the spectacle for three years during which ministers are coming and going. Whoever rules according to the Constitution must have moral values. These values are written in the oaths of the prime minister and ministers,” he maintained.
In three years, he said, this government has not been able to speak a single truth. Abbasi further said the court had ruled that there was no allegation of corruption against Shehbaz Sharif. “On what basis can the NAB remand the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly? The NAB chairman considers himself above the law. All these people will have to give the answer, he added.
The PMLN leader said those working against the law will not be allowed to leave the country by the first flight. “They will have to answer to the law and the Constitution they broke. Speaking on the occasion, Ahsan Iqbal said a three-member bench of the Lahore High Court said the NAB had admitted that it could not provide any evidence of corruption and money laundering against Shahbaz Sharif.
He said the allegations of the PTI government were not more than Alif Laila. “Imran Niazi cannot compete with the achievements of the PMLN. The achievements and abilities of Shahbaz Sharif have been recognised by the whole world. Imran Niazi is not a monarch in Pakistan. People cannot go to jail for the sake of this monarchy. The manner in which Fawad Chaudhry and Shehzad Akbar commented on the decision of the Lahore High Court falls in the category of contempt of court. When the Supreme Court ruled against Nawaz Sharif in the Panama case, the court acted before the ink had dried. On what basis Fawad Chaudhry is criticizing the Lahore High Court? This is not an FIA sub-office. Are Shehzad Akbar and Fawad Chaudhry more knowledgeable about the law than the three esteemed judges?” he remarked.