LAHORE: A detailed verdict by the Lahore High Court on bail petitions of leader of opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif in Ashiana Housing Scheme and Ramzan Sugar Mills rules that the allegations of misuse of authority and cancelling the first contract of the scheme against Mr Sharif have not been supported by any documentary evidence produced by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“Moreover, the allegation against Shehbaz Sharif/petitioner that he got cancelled the contract of M/s Chaudhry Abdul Latif & Sons has also not been supported by the record of the present case because the contract was never cancelled rather the matter was settled through a written agreement with the mutual consent of the parties,” says the verdict issued by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf.
The bench had granted post-arrest bail to Mr Sharif on Feb 14 last through a short order.
The detailed verdict observes that there was no mentioning in the record that the former chief minister was a signatory to the mutual agreement signed by Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) then chief executive officer Shahid Latif and contractor Chaudhry Amir Latif.
Even another PLDC’s former CEO Tahir Khurshid, the start witness of the NAB, had not uttered a single word in his statement that he was pressurised by the petitioner (Sharif) to cancel the contract in question, the bench observes in its judgment.
Rejecting another allegation of the NAB that the former chief minister illegally transferred the housing project from the PLDC to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), the bench ruled that the project was transferred with the approval of PLDC board of directors.
“It is evident from the record that the PLDC BoD itself decided to transfer Ashiana-i-Iqbal Project to the LDA for its execution through public private partnership mode,” the bench remarks.
The bench also observes that it is not understandable that as to why the NAB is insisting that the project should have been executed in the government mode instead of public private partnership mode when the later mode is also lawful, as envisaged under the Public Private Partnership Act, 2014.
“It is also noteworthy that even the sitting government has launched a project for the construction of 5,000,000 houses in Pakistan under the same mode i.e. public private partnership and no objection has so far been raised in this respect by the NAB,” wonders the bench.
Moreover, the bench observes, Shehbaz being the chief minister of the province had the authority under the Punjab government Rules of Business 2011 to transfer any subject or matter mentioned in the 2nd schedule from one department to any other department.
It rules that the NAB also failed to establish any relation between the petitioner and the owners of M/s Paragon City for which the initial contract of the housing scheme was allegedly cancelled.
“Learned special prosecutor for the NAB has frankly conceded that the owners of M/s Paragon City (Pvt) Limited have no relationship with Shehbaz Sharif,” notes the bench adding that even the subsequent contract awarded to M/s Casa Developers was cancelled about six months prior to receiving the first complaint by the NAB.
“Not a single inch of the state land has been transferred in the name of any person/contractor till today. Not a single affectee of the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Scheme out of 61,000 affectees as claimed by the NAB made any statement before it,” the bench rules, adding that prima facie there is not a single affectee in this case because no amount for the allotment of any plot from any person has been received so far except non-refundable fee of Rs1,000 against an application form, which was also deposited in the government treasury.
Through the same order the bench had also granted post-arrest bail to Fawad Hassan Fawad, former secretary implementation to chief minister, in the Ashiana housing scheme.
RAMZAN SUGAR MILLS: The detailed verdict of bail grant to Shehbaz in the Ramzan Sugar Mills case says the drain constructed by the government in Chiniot is for the benefit of the public at large and no evidence has been found on record against the petitioner to establish allegations of receiving kickbacks or embezzlement of public funds.
The NAB had alleged that Shehbaz being chief minister had issued a directive for the construction of a drain in Chiniot district primarily for the use of Ramzan Sugar Mills owned by his sons. It said Rs200 million were spent for this purpose from public money.