–NA Opp leader tells judge NAB’s request for remand extension unnecessary as he’s already cooperating in probe
–Claims anti-graft watchdog has found no evidence of corruption against him, says he’s facing political victimisation
LAHORE: Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was on Tuesday handed in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for another 14 days in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing scandal, as the former claimed that the investigators had failed to incriminate him in the corruption allegations.
According to reports, Shehbaz will be allowed to attend the session of the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday. His production orders were issued by NA Speaker Asad Qaiser on a requisition moved by the opposition parties to discuss the “sudden” arrest of the opposition leader.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president, who has been in NAB custody since Oct 5, was presented in the accountability court amid tight security as NAB’s earlier physical remand expired on Tuesday.
Shehbaz brought his own files to the court of Accountability Judge Syed Najamul Hasan, rejecting any involvement in the case and began reading out his files in court. However, the judge asked him to wait, saying he would first hear NAB’s stance.
The NAB lawyer told the court that Shehbaz had expressed ignorance in each of the questions they had asked him.
As NAB asked for a 15-day extension in Shehbaz’s remand, the PML-N leader’s lawyer opposed the request saying that the bureau had been unable to extract any information from the former Punjab chief minister in the past 10 days. He asked the court to reject NAB’s demand for an extension.
Addressing the judge, Shehbaz claimed that no officers had investigated him for three days. His lawyer added that the opposition leader has been named in the case for political reasons and he had not issued any illegal orders. However, the NAB prosecutor held that further investigation of Shehbaz was necessary.
The prosecutor added that others had also been summoned in the Ashiana case and they had been investigating Shehbaz within the limits of the law.
During the hearing, Shahbaz maintained that whenever NAB had called him, he was present. He added that he answered all questions that NAB had asked, including during the initial 10-day remand. “I am fully cooperating with NAB in the investigation,” he said, asking why they wanted an extension in the remand.
The opposition leader maintained that he had not misused his seat or done any corrupt practice. “I was called for Saaf Pani and arrested for Ashiana,” he told the court. He stated that he had not given any illegal orders and was being accused of giving a contract to Kamran Kiyani’s company in 2013 in order to win the election. “This is a false accusation, I have saved the country’s money and put it in the national exchequer,” he said.
Earlier, prior to Shehbaz’s arrival, all routes leading to the court were cordoned off with security barriers. Individuals unrelated to the court were stopped from entering the premises, and lawyers went through a comprehensive search before being permitted to entire the court. He was transported to court in a vehicle with tinted glass, as the authorities decided against using an armoured vehicle.
Shehbaz is accused of ordering the cancellation of a contract given to successful bidder Chaudhry Latif and Sons for the Ashiana Housing Scheme, and engineering the subsequent award of the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited, resulting in a loss of Rs193 million to the exchequer.
He is also accused of directing the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to assign the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), resulting in the award of contract to the Lahore Casa developers, causing the loss of Rs715 million and the ultimate failure of the project.
NAB has also accused Shehbaz of directing the PLDC to award the consultancy services of the Ashiana-i-Iqbal project to Engineering Consultancy Services Punjab (ECSP) for Rs192 million while the actual cost was supposed to be Rs35 million as quoted by Nespak.
His arrest came after blue-eyed civil servants Fawad Hasan Fawad and Ahad Cheema were taken into NAB custody in the Ashiana scam. PSPC’s ex-CEO Waseem Ajmal and PSPC chairman Raja Qamarul Islam were also being interrogated in Saaf Pani case.
Sources in NAB had said that Fawad and Waseem Ajmal had provided “incriminating evidence” against the former chief minister besides information retrieved from Fawad’s laptop which led to the arrest. Fawad had told NAB he awarded a contract to a “favourite firm” in the Ashiana Housing project at Shehbaz’s behest.
Fawad admitted before the NAB investigators that being implementation secretary to then chief minister Shehbaz Sharif in 2013, he had pressurised PLDC CEO to cancel the contract of M/S Latif & Sons and award it to M/S Lahore Casa Developers at the behest of his boss (Shehbaz).
In November 2017, NAB had launched a thorough probe into the affairs of the 56 public-sector companies formed by the Shehbaz administration in Punjab for their alleged involvement in corruption.
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