–Fawad says PTI govt will remove Bilawal and Sindh CM’s names from ECL but will continue to demand Murad’s resignation
–Accuses Nisar of impeding with fake accounts investigation due to Zardari and Nawaz’s ‘power nexus’
–Shehzad Akbar says too early for PPP to celebrate SC’s order, Bilawal and Murad not given amnesty
–Abu Dhabi crown prince stayed in Rahim Yar Khan for three days, clarifies Fawad
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Monday claimed that former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari is the real owner of Omni Group.
The info minister convened a press conference with PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shehzad Akbar after the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the government to remove the names of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah both from the joint investigation team’s (JIT) report in the fake accounts case as well as the Exit Control List (ECL).
With reference to the orders, Fawad said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government will take off the two names as the court had ordered it but they will continue to demand Shah’s resignation from his post as provincial chief minister because he is accused in the case.
He added that the indicted PPP and Omni Group “could not even dispute on a single point in the JIT report”.
Elucidating his stance, Fawad said that the case began in 2015/16 before his party had even come to power. He accused former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar of impeding with the investigation because there was a “power nexus between Zardari and Nawaz to conceal each other’s corruption”.
He reiterated that the PTI government will “put the corrupt behind bars” and claimed that they have already accomplished 90 per cent of the task.
However, he asserted, the investigators have been given a free hand and there is no political interference.
‘NO AMNESTY GRANTED’:
Addressing reporters, Shehzad Akbar said that it was too early for PPP to celebrate the removal of its leaders’ names from the no-fly list as the accused would definitely be held accountable.
He said that SC’s orders resembled the first verdict on Panama Papers case, recalling how the supporters of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ‘prematurely’ celebrated a momentary relief at the time by distributing sweets.
“Not even a single individual named in the JIT report had challenged a single point of the report or had simply branded it as baseless,” he said, adding that the apex court had rejected all reservations pertaining to the report submitted by JIT and sent the case to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), as per its recommendations. He said that court’s orders to NAB to wrap up its investigation within two months means that those found guilty of corruption will have two options: either to face a reference or ask for a plea bargain.
Moreover, he said, the exclusion of Bilawal and Shah’s names from the no-fly list does not in any way imply that they have been granted amnesty, and NAB will probe Bilawal’s role in light of the report. The JIT will continue to exist and assist NAB in probing the case, he added.
Discussing former law minister Farooq H Naek’s case, the prime minister’s special assistant claimed that he had received funds through a fake account.
“Naek did not respond to any annexure of the report but will have to respond to NAB’s queries. They will have to tell how Bahria Town grew in Karachi at such a pace and without any check and balance and how the state’s land was handed over to the blue-eyed folks,” he said, “They will have to respond specifically to the points raised in the JIT report; how the loan was acquired based on a collateral that was sugar, when the sugar did not even exist; how the Omni Group grew from four to 90 companies within 10 years; and how loans worth millions of rupees were advanced to fake companies.”
“I want to ask them what benefit they were giving to Omni Aviation because even a bus driver would not let me have a free ride. How did you manage to take flights on private jets?” he asked, referring to former Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, his successor Murad Ali Shah, former president Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur, Sharjeel Memon and others.
‘CROWN PRINCE WAS IN RAHIM YAR KHAN’:
While clarifying the contradictory coverage of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan’s visit to Pakistan, Fawad said he had arrived on a private visit and stayed in Rahim Yar Khan for three days before arriving in Islamabad on one-day official visit.
“The Abu Dhabi prince was staying in Rahim Yar Khan for animal hunting,” he clarified while talking to media.
Dismissing the report that the crown prince left Pakistan in haste, Fawad declared the visit successful, arguing that the UAE granted balance of payment support of US$3bn.
He said the visit had fortified the bilateral relations. He also thanked him for helping Pakistan in the times of need.
In a series of tweets on Sunday night, Fawad said that “some reporters who had never been to the Foreign Office portrayed themselves as experts on foreign policy”.
He further stated that details of all such visits were finalised beforehand, and there was no truth in the news of his before-the-schedule departure.