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Sharif cleared in two corruption references

September 20, 2014

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RAWALPINDI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, facing calls for resignation from protesters in Islamabad for more than a month now, must have heaved a sigh of relief on Friday when he learnt that an accountability court in Rawalpindi had cleared him in two corruption references.

Accountability court judge Anwar Ahmed rejected an application filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for reopening of Hudaibiya Paper Mills and Raiwind Assets references.

In Sept 2011, NAB had filed an application in the court to seek revival of the two references along with that of the Ittefaq Foundries.

In Oct 2011, a Rawalpindi division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) restrained the accountability court from proceedings in the matter after Mr Sharif and members of his family challenged the revival of the references and requested the court to quash the cases.

The petitioners included Mr Sharif, his brother Mian Muhammad Abbas Sharif, their mother Shamim Akhtar, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Sabiha Abbas, Maryam Safdar and Syed Ajmal Sibtain, the secretary of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills.

The two-member bench reserved judgment on the petition on Dec 3, 2012. Because of differences in opinions of the two judges, the matter was forwarded to the LHC chief justice who transferred the case to another judge of the court.

In May this year, the LHC accepted the petition requesting the court to quash the Hudaibiya Paper Mills and Raiwind Assets references.

The court observed that NAB had not given proper opportunity to the Sharif family to join the investigations and justify their assets.

The accountability court, in its Friday order, included the reason in its judgment.

As per the NAB investigation report in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills reference, the Sharif family had allegedly deposited ill-gotten money in bank accounts opened in other people’s names and used it to pay off loans of their companies.

The report contains the statement made by Ishaq Dar, who had turned approver against the Sharifs in 2000.

According to the allegations mentioned in the Raiwind Assets reference, the Sharifs had acquired vast tracts of land and built palatial houses and mansions on them with pecuniary resources which appeared to be grossly disproportionate to their known sources of income.

The third reference pertains to alleged corrupt practices in the affairs of the Ittefaq Foundries. NAB has accused the Sharif family of wilful default on Rs3.8 billion to banks. The bureau claimed that the total receivable amount of the National Bank of Pakistan from the Sharif family by Dec 2011 was Rs2.3bn, Habib Bank Rs336 million, United Bank Rs343m, Muslim Commercial Bank Rs456m, First Punjab Modaraba Rs202m, Bank of Punjab Rs95m, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited Rs60m, NIB Bank (formerly PICIC) Rs27m and the ICBP Rs8 million. But the banks claimed that the Sharifs had to pay them Rs5.2bn, including interest.

A prosecutor of NAB told Dawn that the Sharif family had sold the Ittefaq Foundries for about Rs6bn. The amount has been deposited with the “company judge” and would be disbursed among the banks.

He said the dispute would be settled out of court by addressing grievances of the banks.

Published in Dawn, September 20th , 2014