ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders on Tuesday said that a “selected” premier is carrying out “selective accountability” of opposition parties, and threatened to hold protests inside and outside the parliament.
PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal, Zubair Umar, Rana Sanaullah, Musadik Malik, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Mushahidullah Khan addressed a joint press conference in the federal capital on Tuesday where they spoke in light of the accountability court’s verdict which came on Monday. The court sentenced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison in Al-Azizia Steel Mills reference and acquitted in Flagship Investments corruption case.
Ahsan Iqbal said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had failed to produce any evidence against Nawaz in corruption cases, adding that the accountability court’s verdict in Al-Azizia case was based on assumptions. He said that in the verdict, the extent of corruption was not mentioned.
“Nawaz was punished for money sent to him by his son. Is that a crime?” he asked. “Earlier Nawaz was dismissed over not taking a salary from his son now they have sentenced him for taking it,” he added.
“Now I want to raise this question that in the Middle East up to 3.5 million Pakistanis remit money to their families, so would they be considered their business partners or co-owners? If any son sends money to his parents, will they be held guilty?” he asked. “Nawaz Sharif was ascertained the owner of that company simply on the basis that his son sent him money — a practice that is done by millions of Pakistanis,” he added.
Iqbal termed the ongoing accountability process discriminatory, saying that only the leaders of his party were being arrested at the inquiry stage while those from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who have 10-year-old cases registered against them, get hearings delayed at their leisure. “No one can arrest PTI leaders. All the summons and arrests are for PML-N leaders because this government is on a ventilator,” he said, adding that a conspiracy is being hatched to install another ‘conventional league’ in the shape of PTI.
Iqbal claimed that the corruption being committed under the PTI government is three times more than that of the previous eras but that “no NAB, no court is taking suo motu notice of it”.
He further said that a “selected” prime minister is carrying out “selective accountability of opposition parties”.
Zubair Umar said that Jahangir Tareen and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister, Aleema Khan, should be asked how they were able to transfer money abroad. “If matter relating to Aleema is resolved by paying fine, then it means that she committed some misdeed,” he said.
He urged the prime minister to also hold his own party leaders accountable, especially those who “have admitted themselves that they had offshore companies”. “We demand from NAB and the courts that the sense of urgency they have shown against the PML-N, we want to see the same against the PTI leaders,” he added.
He further said, “Moreover, you have ordered audits of Lahore Metro, Multan Metro and Pindi/Islamabad Metro … why not Peshawar Metro? Why is there such a distinction? These twin standards are not acceptable and we demand of NAB that if they want to establish their credibility, there should be across-the-board accountability.”
Zubair demanded that the PTI leaders make complete disclosures of their earnings, money trails and property acquisitions.
Sharif was convicted in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference but acquitted in Flagship Investments reference — a distinction that Punjab’s former law minister Rana Sanaullah found hard to understand. He claimed that the evidence and defence was same in both the cases, adding that it is strange for “Qatari to be halal in one and haram in other”. However, Sanaullah seemed hopeful of “getting relief from the courts just as we had before”.
“We respect NAB as an institution of justice,” he said. “We can still have our reservations against an individual,” he added.
Rana Sanaullah criticised Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed, saying “There is an ugly man who lives in the beautiful city of Rawalpindi and is acting like a NAB spokesperson.” The former law minister also said that the public would hear “good news” soon.
Senator Mushahidullah echoed Sanaullah’s sentiments regarding the individual from Rawalpindi as well as another from Jhelum.
Musadiq Malik, the former spokesperson to the prime minister, drew a parallel between the incumbent government and the Adolf Hitler-led Nazi Germany.
“There is a ban on politics, on journalism and every dissenter who questions is being arrested,” Malik claimed.
He wondered why Sharif was handed a prison sentence even when “the NAB had itself admitted in court that Sharif was neither a shareholder, a director or a signatory.”
“I pray that they (PTI government) do not end the way Hitler and Mussolini did … because their conducts are similar,” Malik concluded.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, while responding to a question on restrictions on media, claimed that the “government wants to shut down all private channels so that only PTV remains, which could then keep their failures and corruption hidden”.
Earlier, Nawaz was shifted to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison from Adiala jail, Rawalpindi. A large number of PML-N workers gathered outside Adiala Jail to greet their leader.
In a short verdict announced a day ago, the court said that there was concrete evidence against the former premier in the Al-Azizia reference and that he was unable to provide a money trail in the case.