–PPP chief and his father Asif Zardari appear before accountability watchdog to record statements in three separate graft cases
–Bilawal admits PPP failed to revoke ‘black law’ during its term, says NAB being used to arm-twist political rivals
–Police arrest at least seven PPP workers in Islamabad after clashes break out outside NAB office
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the party’s Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday appeared before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to record statements in three separate cases, including the Park Lane Estate reference.
In a statement issued after the meeting, NAB said that the father-son duo appeared before it at its Rawalpindi office, where they were grilled for two hours in three cases by a combined investigation team (CIT).
The CIT also handed them a questionnaire pertaining to the cases, which they must respond to within 10 days.
The duo’s responses to the CIT’s questioning on Wednesday, as well as the NAB questionnaire, will be reviewed in accordance with the law, the press release stated, adding that whether or not they will be summoned to Rawalpindi again will be decided in light of their responses.
‘NAB IS A BLACK LAW’
Addressing his supporters after the interrogation, PPP chief Bilawal severely criticised the accountability watchdog for being a brainchild of a “dictator”.
“It was PPP’s weakness” and mistake not to amend the black law,” said Bilawal as he admitted PPP’s failure to get rid of laws introduced by a dictator.
He also said that NAB and JIT(s) were being used as a pressure tactic political rivals. “Whenever we make a speech in the National Assembly, we get a notice from a JIT (joint investigation team) or NAB or some other puppet institution,” said the Bhutto scion.
He said being a follower of Benazir Bhutto he won’t get scared by such tactics, adding that the PPP would keep challenging this puppet regime.
The PPP chairman also demanded the resignation of ministers who have alleged sympathies for militant outfits. He said the PPP would keep demanding action against banned outfits.
PPP WORKERS CLASH WITH POLICE
The roads leading up to the NAB office had been blocked, but PPP workers removed the blockades to reach the bureau’s headquarters, resulting in clashes between the workers and police officials.
The entry of the PPP leaders in the NAB office building was delayed as the workers — who had been instructed by party leadership to reach the federal capital in order to “express solidarity” with the chairperson — surrounded their vehicles.
Additional security personnel were summoned in order to disperse the workers so that Bilawal and Zardari could enter the NAB office building.
PPP workers, however, removed the blockades to reach NAB Islamabad office, after which police arrested seven to eight workers.
According to the PPP, some 30 political workers were arrested after the tussle with security personnel.
Bilawal, in a press conference later in the evening, called for their immediate release, warning the government that failure to do so would compel the PPP to “take steps”.
Condemning the treatment of party supporters, the PPP chairperson pointed out that the government, which was led by a party that had “held Islamabad hostage for 200 days” was unable to “tolerate [PPP] workers for 30 minutes”.
NAB had requested Islamabad deputy commissioner on Tuesday for “necessary security arrangements” at the NAB headquarters in Islamabad as well as at NAB Rawalpindi ahead of the PPP leaders visit.
Talking to reporters, Bilawal said one of the cases he had been questioned about dated back to when he was a newly born baby.
The transfer of the cases to the city of Rawalpindi from Karachi, where his party governs, showed bad intentions, he added.
“These things aren’t new to me. I have seen this all as a little boy along with my mother visiting these accountability offices and these jails,” Bilawal said.
He said that the the latest corruption campaign against him and his fellow party leaders is intended to reverse provincial autonomy and divert regional funds to the federal government.
PARK LANE CASE
The accountability watchdog had initiated an inquiry against Zardari and Bilawal in connection to the allegations that Park Lane Estate Company (Pvt) Ltd — a Karachi-based real estate firm co-owned by the father-son duo — along with government officials were behind the illegal forest land transfer.
According to a NAB spokesperson, Zardari had acquired the company illegally through a front man, Iqbal Memon, in 1989. In 2009, the father-son duo became shareholders of the company.
Zardari and Bilawal have been told to appear before the NAB bureau in Rawalpindi
“Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto have a stake of 25 per cent each in the company,” the NAB spokesperson said and added that the former president had the authority to use the company accounts at his discretion as the firm’s director.
The company documents dating back to 2008 show Zardari’s signatures on them as the director, according to the spokesperson.
The NAB official said Faryal Talpur has not been summoned to the NAB office as yet.