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Monday, April 15, 2024

Can NAB convict a man once known as the ‘blue-eyed boy’ of the establishment?

A senior government official says the establishment will allow Shehbaz to reorganize his party and become a new force in Punjab even as PM Imran remains in office

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has constituted a special prosecution team to pursue the money laundering reference against Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, and his family. But can the bureau be successful against a man known for having good ties with the ‘establishment’? Shehbaz is widely known as the establishment’s blue-eyed man.

According to the details, the bureau’s special prosecutor, Barrister Usman G Rashid, will head a two-member team that also comprises prosecutor Asim Mamtaz as a member. The team will appear in the reference filed by the national graft buster against the PML-N president and members of his family, including Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz.

Read more: NAB summons Shehbaz Sharif and he might skip this time

On Aug 17, the bureau filed a money laundering and assets beyond means reference against the Shehbaz family, including his wife Nusrat Shehbaz, sons – Hamza Shehbaz and Salman Shehbaz – and two daughters, Rabia Imran and Javeria Ali.

Hearing the case earlier, an accountability court had issued arrest warrants for Salman Shehbaz and Shehbaz’s son-in-law, Haroon Yousuf Aziz. It also issued summons to his wife Nusrat Shehbaz and daughters, Rabia and Javeria. Judge Jawadul Hassan heard the case as the PML-N president and Hamza appeared before the court.

Background of the money laundering case against Shehbaz

As the court extends Shehbaz Sharif’s bail, it is important to look into the allegations leveled against him. According to a confidential investigation report seen by Daily Mail, millions of pounds were transferred into the bank accounts of Shehbaz’s family members, including his wife, children and son-in-law.

The publication claimed to have interviewed key witnesses, held on remand in jail, including a UK citizen, Aftab Mehmood, who claims that he had laundered millions on behalf of Shehbaz’s family from a nondescript office in Birmingham – without attracting suspicion from Britain’s financial regulators, who inspected his books regularly.

Read More: Shehbaz Sharif fails to present himself before NAB

According to Daily Mail, investigators are convinced that some of the allegedly stolen money came from the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded aid projects. For rehabilitating and rebuilding lives of the poor, the DFID gave £54 million from UK taxpayers, and the legal documents allege that Shehbaz’s son-in-law received about £1 million from that fund.

As per claims by Daily Mail, Britain’s National Crime Agency has been working closely with Pakistani investigators and Home Secretary Sajid Javid discussing the possible extradition of members of the Sharif family, who have taken refuge in London as courts in Pakistan hear cases against them.

Will NAB fail?

A few months ago, Shehbaz Sharif had told the media that just a month before the general elections of 2018, two renowned journalists approached him with a message regarding his chances of becoming the next prime minister.

The PML-N leader, in an interview with an Urdu daily, claimed that a month before the July election, names of potential cabinet members were being finalized in his meetings with ‘powerful circles’.

Shahbaz Sharif, often considered the establishment’s man, said that his relations with the Chaudhry brothers of the PML-Q, who were once a part of the PML-N, were almost neutral. He said that there are no feelings of enmity between them anymore but there’s no talk of any joint political strategy with them as yet.

Read More: Khan’s idealism or JKT’s realism?

Shehbaz is long known for his pro-establishment views in his party. There have been some reports suggesting his differences with Nawaz and Maryam over the nature of the party’s relationship with the country’s powerful ‘establishment’.

Maryam had recently been leading a segment of the PML-N. She had slammed the ‘establishment’ for political engineering and getting favorable verdicts from courts. However, later on, Shehbaz’s approach appeared to have prevailed, as Maryam slowly distanced herself from the role.

“Shehbaz Sharif is the establishment’s next blue-eyed man. PM Imran is likely to remain in his seat but Shehbaz is certain to have an invisible role to reorganize his party to become a new force in Punjab,” a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told GVS.