–Punjab senior minister resigns from office after arrest, says stepping down on ‘moral grounds’
–NAB says Aleem Khan failed to provide satisfactory money trail for assets, misused office for personal gains
–Fawad says Aleem’s decision to step down from office depicts ‘change in culture’
LAHORE: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Wednesday found itself in a tight spot after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested Abdul Aleem Khan, Punjab senior minister and close aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan, for allegedly owning assets beyond his known sources of income.
The minister was taken into custody as he appeared before NAB Lahore. Aleem was being probed in cases pertaining to owning assets beyond his known sources of income and an offshore company, and his involvement in the Park View Housing Society and River Age Housing Society.
A press release issued by NAB stated that Aleem Khan had misused his authority as general secretary of the Park View Housing Society and as a past member of the provincial assembly, and abused his position to acquire assets beyond his known sources of income.
Following the arrest, NAB Lahore Director General Saleem Shahzad dismissed the ‘favourites’ rhetoric, saying: “The bureau was working in the national interest without [any] bias and that chairman Javed Iqbal has directed for action against [all] corrupt elements on merit.”
He said the bureau arrested Aleem for further interrogation after he failed to satisfy NAB officials regarding the money trail. He will be presented before an accountability court so that NAB could seek his remand for more interrogation.
Following the arrest, Aleem said he has sent his resignation to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
He said, “NAB has taken me into custody, therefore, I am resigning on moral grounds.”
His arrest also led to an emergency meeting of the Punjab government to take stock of the situation, which was jointly chaired by CM Buzdar and Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar.
“Unlike the past, no institution is under any governmental pressure now. Past governments tried to denigrate the institutions through their gratuitous condemnation; however, the PTI fully believes in the supremacy of justice. The law will find its course itself and Abdul Aleem Khan will get justice,” the participants decided.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry termed the resignation “a change in culture” in Naya Pakistan. He claimed the way Aleem stepped down tells a lot about the prevailing culture in PTI and other political parties.
He said opposition parties would now find it difficult to come up with further criticism against NAB and the government, adding that the government fully backed the ongoing accountability process.
‘ASSETS BEYOND MEANS’:
NAB had summoned the minister twice in the case but he failed to convince the accountability watchdog. Subsequently, the former minister was asked to submit more records and documents in the case.
An investigation officer said that the bureau had found during investigations that Aleem Khan owned many flats in the UAE and the UK.
Aleem reportedly has four flats in London and three in UAE. Earlier it had emerged that Aleem owned assets worth over Rs918 million, according to Aleem’s nomination papers submitted for the General Elections.
Aleem’s personal property is valued at more than Rs159 million while his ownership of shares is said to be worth more than Rs129.3 million.
Earlier in 2018, a NAB probe committee had asked Aleem Khan to present details of Hexam Investment Overseas Limited, which according to records is owned solely by him. The PTI leader, however, had claimed that his company was not named in the Panama Papers and that he would present all documents required by the NAB.
“I would quit politics if proven guilty of acquiring even an inch of land illegally,” the PTI Central Punjab president had promised back then.
Moreover, Aleem Khan is also facing a probe regarding the Park View Housing Society in Lahore. In January, reports indicated that the government had imposed a fine of Rs10 million on his Lahore-based real estate company for fraud and misleading advertisements.