Govt constitutes committee to recommend action against Broadsheet beneficiaries

Govt confirms payment of $21.5m damages to Broadsheet

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Monday said that a three-member cabinet committee had been tasked to furnish its recommendations about action on Broadsheet’s findings within 48 hours.

The minister, in a tweet, said the committee constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan under the convenorship of the information minister, would comprise Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari and Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain.

Action would be taken against all the elements, who were either benifitted or had given favours to the Broadsheet in the light of the committee’s recommendations, he added.

Earlier, while addressing the Senate, Faraz endorsed the proposal of a senior legislature of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to form a committee of entire Senate to discuss the Broadsheet issue in detail.

“I respect the thoughts of  Javed Abbasi and fully agree with his suggestion to form a committee of the whole of the Senate to discuss the issue of Broadsheet in detail, so that the nation could know the truth who actually behind it,” he said.

Abbasi had said that it would be a test case for the Senate. The nation must know the truth as to who was the beneficiary and who had done the agreements, he had said.

Abbasi had also requested the Senate chairman to constitute the committee.

DAMAGE COMPENSATION:

Separately, the government also confirmed the payment of $21.5 million to a UK-based asset recovery firm in damage compensation and termed the development as a “cost” of “NRO deals” offered to the Sharif family during the regime of former president Pervez Musharraf.

In 2000, Broadsheet LLC — a company registered in the Isle of Man, tax heaven in the UK, and engaged by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — helped the government and the newly-established accountability agency track down foreign assets of some 150 Pakistan nationals including members of the Sharif family acquired through ill-gotten wealth.

The agreement was terminated by the bureau in 2003, after which Broadsheet filed a claim with the High Court of Justice, London against Pakistan, seeking the award of $28.7 million.

In 2019, a separate claim filed with the high court showed the company has applied for permission to enforce its judgement that it be paid $22 million by the government of Pakistan in compensation.

The firm had also asked for an interest rate of $4,758 a day to be applied, jacking up the amount to $28.7 million. After the bureau failed to make the payment, the amount was reported to be debited from the accounts of the Pakistan High Commission in London.

However, Akbar, special assistant to the prime minister on accountability and interior, while addressing a presser said that the government “cleared the dues” on December 31.

“Of the $21.5m paid to broadsheet,” he said, “$20.5m was paid because of the Sharif family — of this $1.5m was paid against the Avenfield House apartments and $19m against assets of [deposed prime minister] Nawaz Sharif.”

Akbar further said the quantum order mentioned details regarding Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif, such as that he paid $7.3m to NAB and elsewhere, he took kickbacks of $160m in highway taxes.

He also shared copies of ex-parte judgments against Pakistan in the case which he said was done on orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan and was in line with his view of no accountability without transparency.

The minister declassified two judgments: one against the liability award in 2016 and the second for the quantum award in 2018. The first verdict ruled the government [of Pakistan] was liable to pay the firm and the second determined the actual amount of liability to be paid, he said.

He clarified the judgments were being made public after securing written consent by Broadsheet’s lawyers to ensure there were no “reservations” about the decision.

“We represent the nation and came on this mandate [of accountability] so it is the prime minister’s stance that for transparency, everything which should be in public access, the government should do it [and make it available].”

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