Faraz confirms Justice (r) Azmat Saeed will head Broadsheet inquiry committee

The National Assembly's (NA) Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting Chairman Javed Latif asked the chief of the National Accountability Bureau to explain why "Pakistan had to pay billions just because of one institution's fault".

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said on Twitter said that the inquiry committee for the Broadsheet case would be headed by Justice (r) Azmat Saeed Sheikh

He made this announcement after a meeting of the National Assembly’s (NA) Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting regarding the ongoing saga with Broadsheet LLC.

Committee Chairman Javed Latif earlier in the day asked the chief of the National Accountability Bureau to explain why “Pakistan had to pay billions just because of one institution’s fault”.

With regard to Broadsheet LLC, Latif summoned NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal and conveyed his displeasure at the pay-off of the huge sum from the national exchequer to the foreign firm.

“Why did the NAB believe that the money went to the wrong account following the London High Court’s ruling in this regard?” he questioned, directing the NAB to transparently reveal under which government tenure this issue came to be.

He noted that the anti-graft watchdog has changed its statements multiple times and that the Broadsheet saga had become a matter of international embarrassment for the country.

During the meeting, Faraz instead recommended that the committee “summon everyone involved in the transactions if it wants to get an explanation from the NAB chief”. However, Latif replied the government should not portray itself as defending the NAB chairman.

A day earlier, Faraz had said that the Broadsheet LLC issue has once again exposed the plunderers of the national wealth.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the information minister had said this case shows how national interests were compromised for personal gains. The minister had added that those who looted the national exchequer will have to answer for it.

He had further said if these elements had not been given national reconciliation ordinances (NROs), the country would not have to suffer so many losses.

Earlier this week, the federal government had 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 had said that the government “cleared the dues” on December 31.

“Of the $21.5m paid to broadsheet,” he had 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 had 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 had 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 had 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 had 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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