NAB finalises reference against Shehbaz, Fawad in Ashiana scam


–NAB prosecutor tells SC accountability chief has signed reference for submission in court


ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court (SC) that a supplementary reference has been prepared against Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shehbaz Sharif and former top bureaucrat Fawad Hasan Fawad in the Ashiana Housing scam.

The top court was hearing a case pertaining to the Ashiana scam in which a Rs14 billion contract was unlawfully awarded to CASA Developers by former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and his aides. Shehbaz has been in NAB’s custody since October 5.

As a three-member bench headed by Justice Azmat Saeed heard the case, the anti-graft body’s prosecutor told the bench that the NAB chairman had approved the reference and it will be submitted in court soon.

Earlier, it was reported that NAB officials stated that Fawad wrongfully awarded the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme’s contract to ‘favourites’, illegally ordered the shifting of nine CNG stations and also worked in a private bank from 2005 to 2006 without official permission.

Moreover, a NAB spokesperson said that during his tenure as the provincial health secretary, Fawad acquired six mobile health units which were purchased at a higher-than-market rate.

Fawad has served as former PM Nawaz Sharif’s principal secretary and is considered close to the former premier. He was removed from the post of principal secretary on June 1 this year and was appointed director general of Civil Services Academy, Lahore.

NAB sources said that Shehbaz was arrested after Fawad told the anti-graft watchdog that he carried out corrupt activities in projects in Punjab at Shehbaz’s behest. In the investigation that followed, Fawad and Shehbaz appeared together, during which the latter said that 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 in the Saaf Pani Company case, which is one of the 56 companies being investigated for mass corruption.

NAB has alleged that as chief minister of Punjab, Shehbaz transferred the Ashiana Scheme project from Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) to Lahore Development Authority (LDA), ordered for the project to be transferred back from LDA to PLDC, illegally ordered for the project to be transferred to Paragon Housing Society and then kept it in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode, interfered in board affairs and took measures in violation of the law, and illegally cancelled the contract of Lateef & Sons contractors in 2013.

The arrest of Shehbaz at a time when by-polls are around the corner has raised many an eyebrow. The erstwhile ruling party has called out the anti-graft body for its anti-PML-N bias repeatedly in the past, especially after the bureau initiated a probe against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family, in the wake of the Panama Leaks.

Many had linked the arrest of the Sharifs and other PML-N leaders in separate cases, namely Raja Qamarul Islam and Hanif Abbasi from Rawalpindi, in July ahead of general elections as a ploy to deny a level-playing field to the party on July 25.