–NA Opp leader tells House only PML-N leaders being targetted by NAB
–Claims NAB had asked him to become approver against Khawaja Asif
–Info Minister Fawad rejects Shehbaz’s charge of political victimisation, says PTI govt not behind NAB arrests
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday claimed that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) have formed an “unholy alliance” to target opposition leaders.
Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif said this while addressing the National Assembly session convened on the opposition’s demands to protest his arrest by the NAB.
Shehbaz thanked opposition parties and leaders — especially Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — at the start of his address in the session chaired by NA Speaker Asad Qaiser.
Addressing the parliament, Shehbaz Sharif said that “this is the first time in history that an opposition leader was arrested without any charges in such a hasty manner”, adding that he did not want to discuss the merit of the case against him. “I want to talk about the unholy alliance between PTI and NAB.”
“During the election campaign, I openly said that PTI and NAB are arm in arm.
“I am telling you without any fear that the NAB chairman had given orders for my arrest in July,” Shehbaz said, adding that prior to the by-elections, the anti-graft watchdog “implemented the order to affect the poll results”, however, PML-N won the seats lost in the general elections within two months, which proves the elections were rigged. “But man imposes and God disposes,” said Shehbaz
Speaking about the references and verdicts against his brother Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz said: “NAB court’s verdict clearly says that no corruption could be proven against Nawaz Sharif.”
“Yet, he was arrested. He came back, leaving behind his very sick wife who is no more today, to satisfy his conscience.
“We need to find answers to this. You are the custodian of this house, Mr Speaker,” said Shehbaz.
The former Punjab chief minister stated that he had not come to the Lower House to defend himself, rather he wanted to inform the Parliament that “he had served the public within his capacity”.
Shehbaz further claimed that NAB had informed him that there are no charges of corruption against him, but rather he was arrested on baseless allegations of aiding and abetting former army chief Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani’s brother, Kamran Kiyani.
Questioning the circumstances in which he was arrested by the corruption watchdog, Shehbaz said, “I was called in for the Saaf Pani case but then told that I was being arrested in the Ashiyana scam.”
“Is this the tabdeeli [change] that was promised?”
“Those who are fascist and do not obey the law, should remember the end of Hitler and Mussolini.”
The younger Sharif said that the NAB has also accused him and his children of having properties and investments in China. “I told them that if that was the case and you have evidence, I will apologise personally and that I don’t deserve to be in the assembly,” he said. “[But] I told them to produce their evidence.”
“However if this is not true, ‘it is not just me you are accusing but you are also accusing China and Turkey, our most trusted friends.'”
He claimed that at being asked to provide evidence, NAB investigators changed their allegation and instead accused him of holding assets in benami account.
“This is what is happening in that cell,” he said, before adding: “Earlier, PTI had accused me of having properties in Turkey and China and today NAB is saying the same thing. After this, no one needs proof of their unholy alliance.”
Shehbaz told the House that the NAB even asked him to stand witness against his fellow PML-N leader Khawaja Asif. “I said ‘what? Is that why you called me here?'”
“I had heard reports that NAB had been offering [free passes] to people to stand witness against me. I believed those reports when [a similar offer] was extended to me.”
The PML-N politician said that he remains undeterred by his incarceration and will continue with his political struggle. “They know I am a stumbling block,” he said. “I would like to say in all humility that I do not fear prison. I have always raised my voice in my own humble way.”
Defending his conduct as the former Punjab CM, he said: “I have committed many sins but when it comes to governance I have given my blood and sweat to Punjab.”
He claimed that he had made a Turkish company lower its contract cost in Punjab’s solid waste management project, asking the house “would I have done that if I were corrupt?”
Concluding his speech, Shehbaz took a hit at PM Imran’s 2017 claim that he had been offered a Rs10 billion bribe by the PML-N president’s close associate to drop the Panama case against Nawaz. “I served him notices, but neither him nor his lawyer has ever appeared before the court,” he said.
GOVT NOT BEHIND NAB:
While addressing the NA, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry dismissed PML-N President Shehbez Sharif’s allegations that the PTI and NAB “have an unholy alliance” and said, “We did not appoint a single person in the accountability bureau.”
“Officials in NAB were appointed by the previous governments and not even a clerk in the bureau has been hired by us,” he added.
The information minister asserted, “Not even a single case against the Sharif brothers was initiated by us.”
Further, commenting on Shehbaz’s speech, Chaudhry said, “I was very glad that the opposition leader repeatedly said he will be ashamed and leave the Parliament if corruption is proven against him but I want to ask if the same rules apply on his brother.”
Addressing the PML-N’s claim that it is being politically victimised, he said: “They should not talk about victimisation. The vision of this party started after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s hanging so they should not talk about victimisation.”
“I want to also clarify that cases against Shehbaz will not affect Pakistan and China’s relations,” he added while dismissing the PML-N president’s statements. “Today, our relations with UAE, China, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the strongest they have ever been and are continuing to gain strength.”
He further commended the NA speaker for issuing Shehbaz’s production orders and said, “The government stands with the opposition on several matters.”
However, Chaudhry questioned, “Why does the opposition get worried whenever we talk about catching thieves?”
“Each and every penny in the national exchequer belongs to the people and will be spent on them,” he said, adding that “this NA session would be Rs100 million”.
Law Minister Farogh Naseem told the House that “any case in court cannot be discussed in the NA,” the minister said. “This is not a court of law and it [house] cannot decide whether NAB’s inquiry is legal or not”.
Naseem also dismissed Shehbaz’s allegation that his arrest was a combined act of the NAB and the government.
“NAB has the power to arrest whether the issue is pending [or not],” he said. “NAB is an independent institution and did what it did without any interference from the government.”
At this, Shehbaz clarified: “I have not talked about cases in court. I [only] talked about the serious allegations that were levelled against me.”
PPP leader Khursheed Shah took the centre stage and acknowledged the speaker’s neutral role in the session. “I appreciate you for keeping the government side from taking over the discussion,” he said, adding that “I hope you will continue to play your role like this”.
Khursheed countered the law minister’s argument and claimed that matter of “Law and Constitution” can be discussed in the parliament.
“Parliament is not merely for debate,” he said. “It is the mother of all institutions. Law minister talked about the NAB Ordinance’s section 36 and other laws.”
“One rule is also that the things said [in the parliament] are not contested,” he reminded Naseem, before adding: “Parliament is supreme.”
Regarding Shahbaz’s arrest, Khursheed said: “This is the first time in history that a sitting leader of the opposition has been arrested. We are not scared that this arrest will bring disaster. The opposition has asked that the government make a committee to look into this matter.”
Earlier on arrival at the NA, Shehbaz was taken to the opposition leader’s chamber and also met with PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah.
Following Shehbaz’s arrival in Islamabad from Lahore, a five-member NAB team accompanied the party chief to the Lower House from Islamabad airport, where security was placed on high alert prior to Shehbaz’s arrival.
Two officials from NAB Lahore accompanied Shehbaz from Lahore to Islamabad.
On Wednesday, Asad Qaiser directed NAB to produce the incarcerated leader of the opposition in every session of the assembly from October 17.
The production orders were issued after Qaiser announced the second session of the National Assembly to take place on the aforementioned date.
An accountability court on Tuesday extended for 14 days the remand of the PML-N president in the Ashiana Housing Scheme scam case.
The court, however, allowed Shehbaz two days transit remand so that he may attend the NA session scheduled on Wednesday to discuss his arrest on October 5.