News Analysis |
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has arrested Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in the Aashiana Housing Scandal. NAB on Wednesday summoned Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif on Oct-5.
The accountability bureau had earlier arrested senior bureaucrat Fawad Hassan Fawad, accused in various corruption cases, including the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case. Sources also revealed that Shahbaz was summoned after revelations made by Fawad during interrogation.
Cheema, who was taken into custody by the anti-graft watchdog from the office of Punjab Power Company in Gulberg, faces charges of illegally allotting land for the housing scheme in Lahore.
According to NAB officials, Fawad wrongfully awarded the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme’s contract to ‘favorites’, illegally ordered the shifting of nine CNG stations and also worked in a private bank from 2005 to 2006 without official permission. Fawad has served as disqualified 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. The accused bureaucrat was also being probed by NAB for possession of assets beyond known sources of income. According to NAB, the contract for the housing scheme was won by a construction company titled Chaudhry Latif and Sons.
However, NAB asserts that the then Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his aides awarded the Rs14 billion contract to Lahore Casa Developers — a proxy group of Paragon City (Pvt) Limited, which is said to be owned by Railways Minister Saad Rafique. According to the sources, the inability of Shahbaz to answer this point was the cause of his arrest.
According to NAB, Fawad, who was implementation secretary to the chief minister Punjab at the time, made-up false charges against Chaudhry Latif and Sons, in order for the contract to be awarded to Casa Developers. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in February had arrested Lahore Development Authority (LDA) former director general Ahad Cheema in relation to the Ashiana Housing Scheme corruption scandal.
While Shahbaz has been currently taken into custody, he is not “officially arrested” as the permission of the Speaker National Assembly is required.
Cheema, who was taken into custody by the anti-graft watchdog from the office of Punjab Power Company in Gulberg, faces charges of illegally allotting land for the housing scheme in Lahore. According to sources, Fawad had become a witness against Shahbaz Sharif. The Aashiana Housing Scheme is a tip of the iceberg, say observers.
Shahbaz had been called to answer about alleged wrongdoing in the Saaf Pani Scandal which is another target around the younger Sharif’s throat. However, by that time the presumption of guilt in Aashiana Housing had materialized giving NAB the cause to arrest Shahbaz. The main irregularities in the Saaf Pani Scandal are the bestowing of several projects to companies against merit.
It was alleged that most of these companies were fronts for the son of Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz. The Punjab Saaf Pani Company (PSPC), a safe drinking water provision company initiated by the Chief Minister of Punjab was one of the accused companies in the “Punjab company scandal” involving collective corruption worth around Rs 80 billion.
Sources added that anti-graft watchdog sensed mega-corruption as the then Punjab govt spent a dazzling 4 bn Rs on the project but failed to produce even one drop of clean water. The former Punjab chief minister had already appeared before NAB and submitted a reply in this regard. On Sept 8, a multi-story shopping mall owned by Shahbaz Sharif’s son-in-law Ali Imran had mysteriously caught fire killing one while injuring two others.
The elder brother was disqualified and then imprisoned on a Friday and now the younger one seems to be treading on his own path of misfortune on the first day of the Muslim week.
The office of his owned Ali Trading Company was located on the same floor where blaze erupted. The record of agreement of Punjab Saaf Pani Company was also stashed on the same floor. Thus far, Ali Imran—who is facing anti-graft proceedings—hasn’t yet produced the record of Punjab Saaf Pani Company and Punjab Power Development Company before National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Ali Imran is now an absconder as he is wanted in other similar corruption cases. While Shahbaz has been currently taken into custody, he is not “officially arrested” as the permission of the Speaker National Assembly is required for the arrest. However, this is a mere formality. At this time it is pertinent to mention Imran Khan’s first speech as Prime Minister.
During a ruckus created by the PML-N legislated, PM Khan had vowed to bring all the corrupt to justice. The events also show that the impression that Shahbaz is a blue-eyed boy of the establishment were misleading. While recently the PML-N through Rana Mashood had tried to create the image of reconciliation with the establishment, the arrest of Shahbaz has shown that these assertions are contrary to facts on the ground.
Today’s events have strengthened the notion of a “Friday Curse” for the House of Sharif. The elder brother was disqualified and then imprisoned on a Friday and now the younger one seems to be treading on his own path of misfortune on the first day of the Muslim week. It seems that the House Of Sharif is being brought to task for their abuse of power over the years.