Punjab Chief Minister appears before JIT
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, while talking to the media after his appearance in front of the joint investigation team (JIT) on Saturday, said he was asked to appear before the team as somebody “acquainted with the facts of the Panamagate scandal.” The Punjab CM added that even though he had severe back pain, he did not flee from the JIT’s summons. “I did not go away to London, never to return, like other politicians [have done in the past],” Sharif said. He added: “The prime minister of Pakistan appeared front of this JIT a day ago and a new leaf was turned in Pakistan’s 70-year history. Today, I did the same.” “We have proven that our family has respect for the law, unlike the military rulers who usurped power at gunpoint [in the past],” Sharif said. “Whatever questions the JIT asked, I answered them to the best of my knowledge,” he added. Reiterating his brother’s point that the JIT is not investigating a case about corruption within the government, Shahbaz said: “This is a case against our family; it is a means to destabilise our family, just like the attempts made by others in the past,” “This is not the first time that the Sharif family has been put to trial: people should not forget the time when our family’s Ittefaq Foundries were taken from us by force,” he said during his media talk. “The foundry was not made through licences acquired at Punjab Club parties: our father and his seven brothers had laboured away, day and night, to lift the company off the ground,” Sharif said. “Between 1988 and 1990, our family’s second trial took place during Benazir Bhutto’s first government; and then again in 1993 and 1996, the Sharif family suffered losses worth billions due to conspiracies against us,” he added. “But that was not all: in [former president] Musharraf’s era, I was handcuffed and taken to prison. I have not talked about this before publicly as it was a matter of shame, but I am admitting it today because we are on trial once again.” “This is the fifth time we are being put to trial, but just like the times before this, all [our opponent’s] allegations will be proven false,” he said. Earlier in the day, Shahbaz had arrived at the JIT secretariat to present himself to the JIT. He is the fourth member of the Sharif family to be questioned by the JIT. The prime minister’s brother was accompanied by his son, Hamza Shahbaz, Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on his way to the JIT secretariat. He had arrived Islamabad on Friday to discuss his testimony with his lawyers prior to his appearance before the JIT. Sources said the JIT asked Shahbaz questions related to the establishment of the Gulf Steel Mills by his family in the UAE and the company’s subsequent sale. Since Shahbaz Sharif is one of the directors of Hudaibya Paper Mills, the JIT may also have cross-checked with him the information it has so far gathered regarding the Hudaibya reference as well as old litigation between the Paper Mills and Al-Tawfeeq Investment Co, the sources said.