Is NAB really capable of initiating meaningful investigation against Nawaz?

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News Analysis |

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) did not send written summons to the Sharif family, local news reports claim. A local TV news anchor alleged that the Sharif family was instead issued verbal summons by NAB officials rather than official, written summons as had been indicated earlier. It has also been reported that no NAB team was dispatched to Lahore to record statements of the Sharifs.

“It’s totally baseless and concocted. We have record and receipts as well” NAB’s spokesperson Nawazish Ali Asim told GVS in response to these reports.

When asked whether NAB would make the record of the written summons public Mr. Asim stated, “It’s for the record and will be presented before the Honorable Supreme Court if required. It cannot be shared with media.”

News report alleging collusion between NAB and Sharif family:

NAB’s current proceedings are meant to culminate into a reference which was ordered by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case verdict of July 28th, against the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for owning assets beyond their known sources of income.

The Sharif family believes that their appearance before the interrogators would be of little consequence since the court has already directed NAB to file the references.

Earlier, the Sharif family refused to appear before the recently formed four-member Combined Investigation Team (CIT), led by Lahore NAB Director General Saleem Shahzad, when issued summons. The finance minister also, through his counsel, had informed the CIT that he would not join its proceedings till the Supreme Court arrived at a decision on his review petition against the apex court’s July 28 verdict.

Read More: NAB: National or Nawaz’s Accountability Bureau?

While Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired captain Muhammad Safdar refused point blank to appear before the CIT, their counsel filed written replies to the CIT questions about the proceedings being in violation of the NAB Ordinance 1999.

The Sharif family believes that their appearance before the interrogators would be of little consequence since the court has already directed NAB to file the references.

However, it is important to note that NAB possesses the power to arrest individuals who refuse to cooperate with its investigation. Experts familiar with NAB procedures have told GVS that an average person would have, in all probability, been arrested if he/she refused to obey the summons.

Chairman NAB Qamar Zaman Chaudhry is perceived as a Nawaz loyalist, a fact acknowledged by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who co-authored the Panama case verdict.

When Chaudhry appeared before the SC during the Panama case proceedings, the NAB Chairman stated that he believed the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case was without weight, a claim which has since then been debunked by the hard evidence uncovered by the JIT.

He has recently departed to Vienna for an impromptu vacation, curiously timed in light of the prevailing circumstances.

Speaking of vacations, Nawaz is also expected to depart to the U.K due to health reasons. Despite being under investigation, his name has not been added to the Exit Control List as of yet.

It is not yet clear when Nawaz will return from his trip. Pundits have expressed concerns over whether the dismissed Prime Minister intends to return and face trial.

This is not the first time Nawaz is facing a NAB investigation. In 2014, the Lahore High Court quashed the Hudaibya Paper Mills reference against the Sharif family giving the reason that NAB had not given a proper opportunity to the Sharif family to join the investigations and justify their assets.

NAB did not challenge the LHC decision in the Supreme Court.

It remains to be seen if current proceedings lead to any meaningful outcome.

In another recent development, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) handed over records of several companies owned by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Chaudhry Sugar Mills, owned by ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday.

Reportedly, Joint Director of SECP Ali Adnan handed over the records of seven companies owned by Mr. Dar and his family members to the CIT at NAB’s office in Lahore.

A NAB official privy to the investigation revealed that Javed Kayani, a close friend of the Sharif family, had also appeared before the CIT.

The sources said the CIT had persuaded Mr. Adnan and Mr. Kayani to become approvers against the Sharif family.

Mr. Kayani, a former chairperson of the Punjab chapter of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, had earlier been grilled by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the SC while hearing the Panama Papers case.

Read More: Old habits never die: Sharif family ignores NAB summons and challenges…

The JIT had ascertained that Mr. Kayani was involved in the laundering of money for the Sharif family through fictitious bank accounts. He was also named a suspect in the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.

The sources said the CIT had persuaded Mr. Adnan and Mr. Kayani to become approvers against the Sharif family. SECP Director Maheen Fatima is likely to appear before the CIT today (on Thursday).

NAB is now left with almost two weeks to file the references against Mr. Sharif, his children, and Mr. Dar as the six-week deadline set by the Supreme Court will end on Sept 8.

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