LAHORE : An accountability court on Saturday granted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) a 10-day physical remand of former Punjab Chief Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif in the Ahsiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case.
Earlier, the court had reserved its judgment on NAB’s plea to send the PML-N president on a 14-day physical remand.
The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, who was arrested by NAB on Friday in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case, was produced before accountability court Judge Najmul Hasan.
The former Punjab chief minister was represented by counsels Azam Nazeer Tarar and Amjad Pervaiz
As Judge Najmul Hasan arrived in the courtroom, several PML-N workers were present owing to which he summoned Shehbaz, his lawyers and the NAB prosecutor in his chambers. The entry of unrelated persons and media coverage had been barred inside the accountability court.
When Judge Hasan began hearing the case in his chambers, the NAB prosecutor requested that Shehbaz be sent on a 14-day physical remand.
“Shehbaz cancelled the contract awarded to M/s Ch A Latif & Sons for infrastructure development of Ashiana Iqbal Housing Project and awarded it to CASA Developers,” the NAB prosecutor upheld.
“The former Punjab chief minister misused his powers and his actions caused a huge loss to the national exchequer,” the NAB prosecutor told the accountability court judge. “Shehbaz needs to be further investigated in the case and should be sent on a 14-day physical remand,” he added.
However, Shehbaz denied the allegations as “false and baseless” and his counsels opposed the NAB prosecutor’s request to send him on a physical remand.
The leader of the opposition in NA then requested that the hearing not be held in the chambers following which Judge Hasan resumed it in the open court.
Shehbaz told the court that the case against him “was made on political basis”.
“I saved billions through intervention in a personal capacity,” he said while rejecting NAB claims that he cause a huge loss to the national exchequer. “I saved Rs75 billion in Orange Line Train project.”
“I sacrificed my sleep and health to work day and night in order to serve the nation,” the former Punjab chief minister further said.
The PML-N president asserted, “I have not done corruption worth a single penny.”
After hearing the arguments, the court reserved its judgment on NAB’s plea for Shehbaz’s 14-day physical remand. The court then granted NAB a 10-day physical remand of the leader of the opposition in NA.
Shehbaz was brought to the accountability court in an armoured vehicle that was escorted by a fire brigade, an ambulance and police mobiles.
The PML-N president’s sons, Hamza and Salman Shehbaz, were the only ones who were allowed entry inside the court premises during the hearing. PML-N leaders Marriyum Aurangzeb, Khurram Dastgir and Saira Afzal Tarrar were not granted entry.
Several PML-N workers had gathered outside the accountability court and chanted slogans in favour of the party president. On Shehbaz’s arrival, the workers climbed up on one of the armoured vehicles. There were two armoured vehicles — one which entered the court from the backdoor and the other from the front door.
A few PML-N workers also managed to enter the accountability court despite being barred entry as they were sitting atop the armoured vehicle. A worker was also injured as he fell from atop the vehicle and was shifted to the hospital.
Contingents of police, including anti-riot force, had been deployed around the accountability court and roads leading to it had also been blocked.
According to NAB sources, a medical examination of Shehbaz was conducted before he was brought to the accountability court and he was declared fit.
Shehbaz was arrested when he appeared before NAB to record his statement in the Punjab Saaf Pani Company case on October 5.
According to sources, Shehbaz was arrested after Fawad Hasan Fawad, the then implementation secretary, told NAB that he carried out corrupt activities in projects in Punjab on orders from Shehbaz, who was the chief minister then. NAB had also received information from Fawad Hasan’s laptop, from which data was retrieved after his arrest.
In the investigation that followed, Fawad and Shehbaz appeared together, during which the latter said he would bring proof. Subsequently, NAB granted time to Shehbaz to gather proof, but he could not produce anything. Therefore, the anti-graft body summoned him Thursday in the Saaf Pani Company case, which is one of the 56 companies being investigated.
The inquiry conducted states that Shehbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab had unlawfully assumed powers of Board of Directors of Punjab Land and Development Company (PLDC), misused his authority and acted in connivance with Fawad Hassan Fawad who at the time was Secretary Implementation to CM Punjab and others. Contracts awarded to M/s Ch. A Latif and sons for the development and infrastructure of Ashiana Iqbal Housing Project were illegally cancelled.
As the chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif in a meeting on October 21, 2014 unlawfully directed PLDC to entrust the project of Ashiana Iqbal Punjab to LDA. This decision of Sharif was illegal and mala fide as PLDC was the company which was established for undertaking such housing projects. Shehbaz is accused of illegally transferring this project to LDA, which was headed by his close aide Ahad Khan Cheema.
Shehbaz is also accused of working in connivance with other accused in the case and directed LDA to undertake Ashiana Iqbal Project under Public Private Partnership mode. NAB states this was done in order to give “unlawful benefit to blue-eyed firm namely M/s Bismillah Engineering Service Company, which was a proxy firm to M/s Paragon City.”
However, Shehbaz was arrested for alleged corruption in Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case, in which former Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and his brother Khawaja Salman Rafique are also involved and have been summoned on October 16.
Speaking to the media persons outside the accountability court, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said Shehbaz’s arrest is the worst form of political victimisation.
“He was asked to appear before NAB and record his statement in the Saaf Pani Company case but was arrested in Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case,” she added.
“Not even corruption of Rs1 could be proven against the PML-N president,” she added.
Stating that PTI is resorting to such tactics as they could not “defeat PML-N in the political arena”, Aurangzeb said, “We will not accept revenge in the name of accountability.”