Home News Analysis Shahbaz Sharif indicted in Ashiana Housing scandal: NRO or No NRO?

Shahbaz Sharif indicted in Ashiana Housing scandal: NRO or No NRO?

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News Analysis |

An accountability court has indicted Opposition leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and other accused in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing scandal on Monday in Lahore. According to media reports, Judge Syed Najamul Hassan heard the case in which, Shahbaz Sharif and other suspects appeared before the court. The judge framed charges against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif and other accused during the hearing.

However, Shahbaz Sharif and other accused denied the charges and termed the reference filed against them ‘false’. The defense lawyer Amjad Pervez, in his arguments, said that “statements of secretary housing and Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) are not part of the reference”. The court after summoning the witnesses in the case adjourned the hearing of the case until March 4th. It is worth mentioning here that the PML-N president was arrested by NAB on 5th October in the Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme case and was produced before accountability court, Judge Najmul Hasan.

“The establishment can work with Shahbaz but they are reluctant to accommodate Nawaz Sharif and Maryam because of their anti-army stance after Panama Paper’s verdict” pointed out an analyst.

He has been accused of ordering cancellation of the contract of Aashiana-e-Iqbal to a successful bidder Chaudhary Latif and sons, leading to the award of the contract to another builder, Lahore Casa Development [a proxy group of PMLN leader Saad Rafique’s Paragon City Private Limited],  which resulted into a loss of Rs193 million approximately. He also directed PLDC to assign the project of Aashiana-e-Iqbal to Lahore Development Authority resulting into the award of contracts to M/s Lahore Casa Developers (JV), thus causing loss of Rs715 million approximately and ultimately failure of the project, according to the notice.

It is important to note here that the PML-N president was released from sub-jail on February 15, a day after the Lahore High Court granted him bail in Ashiana Iqbal Housing Scheme and Ramzan Sugar Mills cases. Furthermore, in Ramzan Sugar Mills reference, he has been accused by the NAB for misusing his authority as Punjab chief minister to benefit factories owned by his sons and causing the loss of Rs200 mn to the national kitty.

Read more: Politics of Sharifs and history of NROs in Pakistan

Moreover, in the latest development, Shahbaz Sharif is barred from flying abroad as reportedly his name has been put on provisional national identification list (PNIL) in a case pertaining to having assets beyond means.

Earlier, it was reported that Shahbaz Sharif would leave for London to see his ailing granddaughter–Hamza Shahbaz’s daughter–who underwent cardiac surgery. But on NAB’s request yesterday, the interior minister has put his name PNIL until placing Shahbaz’s name in exit control list for which, a summary has been sent to federal cabinet, local media reported quoting sources.

No NRO?

Prior to Shahbaz’ indictment, it was widely held opinion among analysts and experts that the former ruling party had signed a deal with the current government. According to the said deal, the establishment has asked the PML-N to send Nawaz Sharif and his daughter outside Pakistan in self-imposed exile but younger Sharif and his family can stay here in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan himself stated repeatedly that “there shall be no NRO. I want to make it clear to everyone that the PTI is not going to sign any deal or NRO with thieves.”

“The establishment can work with Shahbaz but they are reluctant to accommodate Nawaz Sharif and Maryam because of their anti-army stance after Panama Paper’s verdict” pointed out an analyst. But two decisions in the last few days have rubbished any such speculations. Firstly, the government made it clear that Nawaz Sharif will not be allowed to leave Pakistan under the pretext of illness or treatment.

Prime Minister Imran Khan himself stated repeatedly that “there shall be no NRO. I want to make it clear to everyone that the PTI is not going to sign any deal or NRO with thieves.” Secondly, the court has now indicted Shahbaz Sharif which clearly means the government is not in any mood to sign an NRO with the leader of opposition in the National Assembly.

Read more: “We did not ask for an NRO,” says Shehbaz Sharif

Political commentators view this development positive as earlier it was a norm in the country that the ruling elite would get a deal from the counterpart to exit the country for a specific period of time. Experts believe that such personalization of politics in Pakistan has adversely affected political culture, electoral process, and institutions.


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