–NAB’s counsel Naeem Bukhari says Shehbaz Sharif conspired with Ahad Cheema to award illegal contract for Ashiana project
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday accepted for hearing the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) plea challenging a Lahore High Court (LHC) decision to grant bail to National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif and former PM’s principal secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad in the Ashiana Housing Scheme case.
A three-member SC bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed heard the NAB appeal.
During the course of proceedings, NAB’s counsel Naeem Bukhari withdrew his adjournment application submitted on Wednesday on medical grounds. He said he appeared before the bench as negative news was spread on the social media.
He pleaded that the high court granted bail to the accused against the principles governing the grant of bail set by the Supreme Court. There were no circumstances necessitating the grant of bail to Shehbaz Sharif.
Upon this, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan remarked that the LHC had not found sufficient grounds for the allegations levelled against Shehbaz Sharif and believed that all contracts seemed to have been granted by him on merit.
Naeem Bukhari said the LHC’s decision had been taken without due consideration of the facts of the case and had impacted the case adversely.
“Former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif had been the architect of the Ashiana scandal as he conspired with former Lahore Development Authority director general Ahad Cheema to award the project contract in contradiction of the rules,” he claimed, adding that the former chief minister cancelled the first successful bid for the contract and later intervened in the second bidding process.
“The first contract was cancelled in bad faith and the successful bidder had to be paid Rs6m as penalty,” he said.
Naeem Bukhari argued that the Paragon Company was then awarded the contract for 2,000 kanals of land for Rs4bn. The project was turned into a public private partnership by using government finances and it was all done to benefit the Paragon Company, he added.
Due to the alleged illegal cancellation of the contract, the government had to pay damages to the contractor. The cancellation of the contract had also delayed the project, resulting in a cost escalation of billions of rupees.
The NAB counsel stated that more than 6,000 affected persons were still waiting for the project to be completed.
He also pointed out that Fawad was also facing a case pertaining to the assets beyond known sources of income.
He said if Ahad Cheema was in jail then how could Shehbaz Sharif and Fawad Hassan Fawad be allowed bail.
Later, the court accepted NAB’s appeal for hearing, issued notices to Shehbaz Sharif and Fawad Hassan Fawad, and adjourned the case till May 2.