News Analysis |
Former Information Minister of Sindh Sharjeel Memon and 11 others were indicted by the accountability court in Karachi in a corruption reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Memon is accused of embezzling almost 6 billion rupees in Sindh’s information department. The others accused include former Secretary Information Zulfiqar Shalwani, Yousuf Kaboro, Inam Akbar, Syed Mansoor Hashmi, Altaf Hussain Memon, Umar Shehzad Khan, Syed Naveed, and Syed Masood Hashmi.
The crimes of the accused were read out to them individually after which all the accused pleaded not guilty. The court then formally indicted them and summoned the witness to record their statements next week. According to the NAB reference, investigations were conducted regarding corruption in the awareness campaign advertisements on television and FM radio station by the Sindh Information Department.
Governance experts believe that placing someone’s name on ECL is not only an administrative but also a symbolic measure that the said person is wanted by the authorities in Pakistan.
These ads were deemed to have been awarded at ‘exorbitant rates’. Between July 2013 and June 2015, Rs5.76 billion was paid to seven advertisement agencies. The ad agencies then paid for ads at much lower rates, pocketing a huge difference at the cost of government revenues. Sharjeel Memon was removed as the information minister of Sindh on 5th December 2015, after he had not been in the country for a few months.
In contrast, to the recent controversy over adding names of the former PM and his daughter and son-in-law, Sharjeel Memon’s name was added to the Exit Control List (ECL), even though no formal case was booked against him at that time and he was outside the country. NAB had added his name onto the ECL based on an inquiry being conducted at that time against him.
Read more: Sharjeel Inam Memon calls his arrest: “Kidnapping”
Yesterday, NAB had requested the interior ministry to place the name of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Capt (Retd) Safdar on the ECL, anticipating that the Sharif family might be trying to flee the country as the graft case against them is nearing its conclusion. Interior ministry turned down their request stating that there was no full court order on it. The three are prime accused in different proceedings and cases going on in the accountability court.
The ministry has also refused to place his name on the ECL stating that he was already out of the country. Refusal to give Nawaz the same treatment as Sharjeel shows that Pakistan’s institutions are not strong enough to move against the PML-N ruling party in the country.
Graft references were filed against the three by NAB after the orders of the Supreme Court (SC) in its 28th July 2017 verdict which disqualified Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister of Pakistan. Three references were filed against Nawaz; Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments; while Maryam and Safdar are accused in the Avenfield properties case.
On Wednesday, opposition leader Khursheed Shah while speaking to media, hinting towards NAB’s request to place Nawaz Sharif’s name on ECL, said that the law and rules should be same for everyone in the country. “There is no reference against Sharjeel Memon, yet he presented himself in the court. Others have had references presented against them, yet they are free to roam around,” Shah told the media.
Read more: Sharjeel Memon in jail on 10 days remand: One land two…
The opposition leader who was vexed by the discriminatory treatment said, “If they do not act, then they should also free Sharjeel Memon and remove his name from ECL.” Shah said that Nawaz’s name should be added to ECL since the accountability body has asked for it; he demanded similar rules for everyone being investigated by NAB.
Interior ministry turned down their request stating that there was no full court order on it. The three are prime accused in different proceedings and cases going on in the accountability court.
Opposition parties have termed interior ministry’s refusal to not place Nawaz’s name on ECL as an abuse of power. PML-N is the ruling party of Pakistan and they are reluctant to act against their own chief. Last year, NAB had to asked interior ministry to place senior PML-N leader Ishaq Dar’s name on the ECL, but the ministry had delayed using and had asked NAB to provide it reasons for the placement, when they were presented, Dar had already left the country. The ministry has also refused to place his name on the ECL stating that he was already out of the country.
Governance experts believe that placing someone’s name on ECL is not only an administrative but also a symbolic measure that the said person is wanted by the authorities in Pakistan. Refusal to give Nawaz the same treatment as Sharjeel shows that Pakistan’s institutions are not strong enough to move against the PML-N ruling party in the country.