–NAB Sukkur had summoned ex-NA Opp leader but he excused himself from appearance citing NA session
–NAB alleges Shah of owning hotels, petrol pumps and other properties in names of frontmen and benami companies
–Bilawal says ruling PTI’s behaviour towards opponents and critics is ‘reminiscent of Salem witch trials’
RAWALPINDI: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader and former leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday, hours after he had excused himself from appearing before a NAB Sukkur team investigating an illegal assets charge against the senior politician.
The PPP central leader was summoned by the anti-corruption watchdog for interrogation after the opening of an inquiry against him for owning assets beyond his means of income, including hotels, petrol pumps and houses registered in the names of his alleged frontmen.
Shah had informed NAB Sukkur chapter of his unavailability through a letter, stating that he would be attending the NA session and asked NAB officials to provide another date for his appearance after the conclusion of the NA session.
The anti-corruption watchdog, which began the investigation on August 7, has also unearthed more than 105 accounts that led to the PPP senior leader.
“Shah has opened as many as 105 banks accounts under his and family members’ names in Karachi, Sukkur and other cities,” the NAB sources said.
Further, properties were made in Sukkur, Rohri and Karachi, according to document acquired by the accountability watchdog and it also reveals that Glamour Bungalow, Junejo Flour Mills, Mukesh Flour Mills including 83 other properties were made under Shah’s frontman, Pehlaj Rai.
More 11 properties were registered under his another frontman Lado Mall and 10 properties were made under name of Hussain Soomro, another frontman of the PPP leader whereas a person namely Umar Jan also played a vital role for Shah.
A house and a bombproof car, being used by the PPP leader, are also registered under his name.
“Shah will be presented before the concerned accountability court in Sukkur for remand tomorrow,” a NAB press release said.
Shah was taken away by nearly 20 personnel of NAB and police during a raid at his Banigala residence in Islamabad.
Shah enjoys an influential position in the PPP and was its chief whip in the 2008-2013 National Assembly. He is considered a trouble-shooter as far as relations with other parties are concerned, mainly on account of his good connections with all political parties.
‘SALEM WITCH TRIALS’:
In a statement shortly after Shah’s arrest, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) behaviour towards its opponents and critics was “reminiscent of Salem witch trials”.
Bilawal also condemned the PTI’s attempt to launch a witch-hunt against media too after having entangled the opposition leaders through the anti-graft watchdog.
The way the PTI dealt with opponents and critics was “based on frivolity and falsehoods, the PTI’s narrative is right out of Goebbels’ propaganda playbook”, he said.
Speaking about the media, the PPP chairman said the ruling party was “going to go after its critics in the media through these so-called media tribunals” now that the PTI had “found an easy way to imprison its political opponents by unleashing NAB”.
Terming the tribunals as “nothing but another way of silencing dissent”, Bilawal said the PTI’s social media team followed the exact same path of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “bhakts” who, he said, discredited and harassed critics online.
“Now, they want to go after media organisations through these special tribunals because the media is exposing select PM’s ineptitude and incompetence,” he added.
“Enough is enough. The media fraternity, too, must raise its voice for their own rights. The opposition firmly stands behind them,” Bilawal stated.
‘DIVERTING ATTENTION FROM KASHMIR FAILURES’:
In a late-night presser after a consultative session of the party, Bilawal said the government arrested Khursheed to divert attention from its failure over Kashmir issue.
“If you can’t lead your own nation, your own country, how can you lead a cause outside the country,” said Bilawal, addressing Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Likening the situation in Pakistan to that of Kashmir, the PPP chief questioned: “How can [the premier] raise his voice for political prisoners in Kashmir when he is arresting politicians in his own country”?
Demanding across the board accountability, he said the NAB law was formed by General Pervez Musharraf to arm-twist politicians. “NAB is acting at the government’s behest,” he said, adding the PPP, however, won’t make any compromises and stand up to the “undemocratic forces”.
Speaking about Azadi March in Oct, he said the PPP will send its delegation to the sit-in. However, it only “lends moral support” to Maulana Fazlur Rahman for his protest in Islamabad, he added.
He also demanded judicial reforms in the country. In an apparent reference to the deployment of military troops in polling stations, he said no one other than the Election Commission of Pakistan should be able to intervene in the election-related activities.