–Fawad reiterates govt’s stance of recovering ‘looted money’
–PTI leaders slam PML-N for ‘misleading nation’
ISLAMABAD: A day after an accountability court sentenced former premier Nawaz Sharif in a corruption reference and the Supreme Court (SC) slammed former president Asif Ali Zardari along with others over money laundering and fake bank accounts, Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter claiming that these were the “case studies in how states fail”. Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry reiterated government’s stance of “recovering looted money”.
In a tweet, the premier said, “The Panama JIT report & the Fake Accounts JIT report are case studies in how states fail – getting impoverished & drowning in debt. The scale & methods used for syphoning off public money are incredulous & mind-boggling.”
“I am puzzled & perplexed by those who, despite having read the two reports, are still defending the plunderers,” he added.
Meanwhile, talking to a private news channel, Fawad said that former premier Nawaz Sharif was given relief by the accountability court in the Flagship Investments reference due to some “technical reasons” but the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is going to file a review petition in Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the decision.
He said that the government is also completing legal formalities to bring back former finance minister Ishaq Dar and sons of Nawaz Sharif.
Replying to a question, he said that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has suggested filing of sixteen different references against leaders of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Omni Group on the basis of JIT report regarding the money laundering scandal.
He said that the JIT submitted its report after complete verification of fake bank accounts, money laundering and misuse of authority cases.
PTI LEADERS SLAM PML-N FOR ‘MISLEADING NATION’:
Addressing a joint press conference, Minister of State for Revenue Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Leader of the House in the Senate Shibli Faraz and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the modus operandi of Nawaz and erstwhile president Zardari to plunder the national wealth were the same.
Reacting to a press conference held by some Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders earlier in the day, Fawad said that the most shameful act committed by them was that when they compared Nawaz Sharif’s sons with expatriate Pakistanis in the Middle East.
“Expats send their hard earn money to Pakistan and leaders like them [PML-N] use that money for their personal benefits and gains,” he said. The expats had to move to some foreign countries for better earnings as they did not get opportunities in Pakistan, he added.
The minister said that companies such as Al-Azizia Steel Company Limited and Hill Metal Establishment were non-existent enterprises as their only purpose was to make money.
He said that the Sharif family’s Jati Umra residence consisted of 100 acres where around 700 employees were serving. “But their assets show they even do not even have the money to pay the salaries of these employees.”
He said that the condition of Nawaz Sharif’s defenders was not different from him. They were in fact not worried for him but for their ownselves as PTI and Imran Khan had been given mandate by the masses to conduct accountability and catch the thieves, he added.
The government, he said, had not arrested Nawaz, while the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) kept the references against him pending. The same had happened in the case of Maryam Nawaz, he added.
Fawad said that NAB had already made it clear as to why Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif and another PML-N MNA Saad Rafique were arrested. “The NAB arrested Shehbaz Sharif as in his case evidence was being tampered with. It [NAB] is not arresting those who are cooperating with it. It is only arresting the individuals who are trying to frustrate the investigations,” he said.
He said that it was clear that the prime minister would neither ask for some discriminatory actions against anyone nor would he become a party in any matter. Investigations into all the cases, including that of money laundering against Zardari, began in 2015 when the PTI was not in power, he added. He also said that the investigations were stopped after sometime. However, when the PTI came into power it detached itself from all the issues as it believed institutions should act independently, the information minister added. “We allowed the institutions to work freely. They functioned independently and now we are startled at the revelations made by them,” he said.
Elaborating the reasons of mega corruption cases, the minister said that the matter began with the signing of Charter of Democracy by the PPP and the PML-N. “The first corruption case took place in 1992 when Nawaz came into power. And when Zardari got the opportunity several other scams came to limelight, including the Surrey Palace,” he said.
The Charter of Democracy was basically a ‘charter of corruption’ between the gangs led by Nawaz and Zardari, he added.
He said that after the completion of five-year government tenures of both PPP and PML-N, Pakistan’s foreign debt had risen from Rs6 trillion to Rs24 trillion. The leadership of the two parties had named their plundering as democracy, he added.
He said that Sindh had suffered a lot as around 33 to 35 per cent of its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) was usurped by the Zardari Group of Companies. “Similarly, a big chunk of amount reserved for the province of Punjab went into the accounts of Hassan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif,” he added.
“These two parties had entered into an agreement from where they were getting commissions from every side,” he claimed.
He said that the Park Lane Company, where Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also a shareholder, was the same company, which Zardari had snatched from Hashwani. Fawad said that the courts gave Nawaz Sharif enough time to clear his position and he would again get that opportunity in the high court.
The question being asked from Nawaz, he said, was very simple i.e. that why his declared assets did not match his lifestyle. “These people are being asked to justify the amount in their bank accounts,” he added.
Expressing surprise over Ahsan Iqbal’s statement regarding PTI being imposed on the people of Pakistan, the minister said the PML-N leader was suffering from despair and depression. He [Ahsan Iqbal] had probably forgotten that who had imposed the PML-N on Pakistan in 1980’s, he remarked. Ahsan was very close to dictator Ziaul Haq and even he did his engineering degree at his [Zia’s] quota, he added.
He said that the Sharif brothers were even unable to get elected councilors before the Zia regime.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Revenue Muhammad Hammad Azhar said that an attempt was made to mislead the nation by the PML-N leaders that Nawaz Sharif was sentenced because his son had sent him money from abroad.
“If you look at the documents you will see things are not like that as they are trying to portray. Around 88 per cent profit of Al-Azizia Mills and Hill Metal Establishment was sent to Nawaz and 10 per cent to his employees. This shows that Nawaz owned these companies,” he said.
“They [PML-N and PPP] have failed to answer the questions as to from where did the money come for their companies. Instead of replying, they ask us to seek money trail from Aleema Khan,” he added.
Aleema, who had never been a public office-holder, had submitted her money trail in SC, he said. “However, as in her tax returns she had not declared her property, she will have to pay the penalty, besides paying taxes according to Pakistani laws,” he added.
“Had she not been able to prove her money trail, she would have been passing through the same circumstances [like the PML-N and PPP leaders],” he further said.
He said that the money laundering network being run by Nawaz and Zardari had caused huge damage to the national economy as well as to common man. A huge amount from the PSDP funds had been transferred abroad in the form of commission and it was clear that Omni Group, Alz-Azizia Mills and Hill Metal Establishment were just vehicles of money laundering, he added.
The minister said that if anyone from PTI was found involved in money laundering, the party would itself handover them to NAB. He asked the PML-N leaders not to mislead the nation and answer the questions asked by the courts.
The joint business ventures of the two families had been exposed and hopefully NAB, FIA and other institutions would take the cases against them to their logical end, he added.
Senator Shibli Faraz, on the occasion, said that according to the PML-N and PPP leaders, democracy was getting weakened in the country due to the accountability process.
“I just want to tell them that democracy does not weaken due to accountability rather it will strengthen,” he said.
On Monday, an accountability court sentenced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference and ordered that his Hill Metal Establishment properties be seized.
On the same day, the apex court barred the trading and transfers of the properties of the Zardari Group, Bahria Town and Omni Group after a report submitted by a JIT held them responsible in the mega money laundering and fake accounts case.