KARACHI: In what has been described as the first major action against the PPP leadership during the ongoing Karachi operation, Dr Asim Hussain, a former federal minister and close aide to former president Asif Ali Zardari, was taken into custody on Wednesday.
While Dr Hussain does not hold any formal office in the party, he is said to have wielded enormous influence with Mr Zardari when the latter was the country’s president.
Apparently because of his close ties with the PPP co-chairman, he was appointed chairman of the Sindh Higher Education Commission with the status of a provincial minister.
No anti-corruption agency or even police confirmed his arrest, but sources said that he was taken into custody when he was in a meeting held at the Sindh HEC’s Clifton office on appointment of a new vice-chancellor of the Dow University of Health Sciences.
Sources said that over a dozen men in plain-clothes belonging to the Federal Investigation Agency and an intelligence outfit arrived at the HEC office at around noon and their leader introduced himself to Dr Hussain and asked him to accompany them.
Dr Hussain was taken to an undisclosed location for questioning.
The sources said before the team arrived at the HEC office, the building had been surrounded by Rangers to ward off any potential resistance by armed guards of Dr Hussain.
While the National Accountability Bureau denied having anything to do with Dr Hussain’s detention, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah condemned the arrest.
The action came a day after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif had directed the authorities to break the “evil nexus between terrorism, criminal mafias, violence and corruption” to achieve the objective of ensuring a peaceful and terror-free Karachi.
According to the sources, Dr Hussain was being grilled for his alleged involvement in illegal occupation of government land in North Nazimabad and Clifton for the extension of his Dr Ziauddin Hospital.
Besides, they said, Dr Hussain was also being questioned for allegedly misusing his authority when he was petroleum minister / adviser during the PPP government at the centre after the 2008 general election.
In 2009, he was elected a senator from Sindh on the PPP ticket. He served as the minister of petroleum and natural resources and then the prime minister’s adviser with the same portfolio until 2012.
After the 2013 general elections, the PPP government in Sindh made him chairman of the provincial HEC.
He is also believed to be close to the top leadership of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2015